Angelique Kunst: “Podcast Under the spell of Rian clarifies the Sanderink case”

Investigative journalist Angelique Kunst (photo) has for years been biting herself about the dubious role that self-proclaimed cyber expert Rian van Rijbroek plays in the life of top entrepreneur Gerard Sanderink. She wrote articles for the AD newspaper Tubantia about how Van Rijbroek works in the Sanderink empire, owner of the ICT colossus Centric and construction company Strukton. Now there is also the successful 5-part podcast series Under the spell of Rian. Angelique: “I’ll keep going until action is taken, and don’t let it scare me.”

She has done five podcasts and already knows that it doesn’t stop there. In fact, it is inevitable. A new path has been taken in the controversial ‘soap’ about Rian van Rijbroek, her friend, entrepreneur and multi-millionaire Gerard Sanderink and his ex-partner Brigitte van Egten. “Now that the Almelo court says that the nasty emails from Sanderink were probably written by Van Rijbroek, and the prosecution announces a preliminary investigation, I don’t think it will stop at this first podcast series. There are no concrete plans yet, but I expect that there will be an episode 6, 7, 8 or maybe 9,” says Kunst.

Personal data of millions of Dutch people

The question: Twente self-made entrepreneur Gerard Sanderink is the founder and full shareholder of Centric, the ICT company that provides software for countless public systems. He also owns almost all the shares in construction giant Strukton, which works on roads, viaducts and other infrastructure projects. Centric works for 185 municipalities and thus manages personal data for millions of Dutch people. In 2018, Sanderink got to know Rian van Rijbroek from Veghel, who had previously come under fire for questionable statements about cybercrime on the TV program Nieuwsuur.

‘There’s only one boss here’

From that moment Van Rijbroek gained more and more influence over Centric’s board. Sanderink even tried to make his new girlfriend the heir to the ICT company in 2021. Angelique Kunst delved into this affair for AD newspaper Tubantia. In addition to numerous articles, she also wrote the book ‘There is only one boss here’, which was published in May and caused quite a bit of controversy.

It turned out to be difficult to make podcasts

“We already started preparing a podcast series about this case in December,” says Kunst, “but when Financieel Dagblad made a podcast about Gerard Sanderink, we needed a new approach. It was Rian van Rijbroek. Because you’re still left with the question of how she does all this, and above all: why? It turned out to be very difficult to do this podcast because the people I could interview for the book didn’t turn out to be willing to sit behind the microphone because they wanted to be anonymous. I respect that choice. In the end, we managed to put down a good story, thanks in part to the use of voice actors who recorded the lyrics from my sources.”

Professional approach

“I worked on the content of the podcast series, but the actual production of it was done by journalist colleague Renée van Heteren. Creating a podcast is an art in itself. You can put down a microphone and record a conversation, which is how many podcasts are made, but the result is often like an amateurish YouTube video recorded with a smartphone. So the best choice is to tackle it professionally. Renée is very good at that field.”

‘Almost like a radio play’

“I have to admit that I wasn’t very enthusiastic about the podcast medium at first. Most of the time I found them too slow and not that engaging. But my publisher DPG Media wanted it anyway. Renée chose an approach with music, good montages and clips and instructed me to record and introduce the subjects. It’s almost like listening to a radio play. The exciting design of this series is therefore entirely to her credit.”

Nice and beautiful comments on podcasts

Rian van Rijbroek News hourThe series is now Under the spell of Rian high on the top lists of most listened to podcasts in the Netherlands. “So far I’ve only had nice and beautiful reactions”, says Angelique. “Except, of course, from Mrs Van Rijbroek’s camp. She wasn’t too happy and had her lawyers write a few angry letters. I’m not losing sleep over it because I’ve been used to lawyers being difficult for years. Perhaps my sobriety from Twente helps a little, but in this connection it is more important that my employer DPG Media stands behind me. It is a gigantic concern and has much deeper pockets than Mr. Sanderink. He scares everyone with his infinite power, and I know from other journalistic colleagues that they didn’t dare publish certain publications because their bosses didn’t want the expensive hassle of lawyers. DPG Media can afford that and supports me unconditionally. They say: girl, go ahead and let Sanderink come.”

Financial strength

“Complaints are often made about the lack of pluralism in the Dutch media, because they are almost exclusively in the hands of DPG Media and the other large publishing group Mediahuis. But today, media must have a certain financial strength in order to be able to afford their publications in the field of investigative journalism. You can be small and independent and act as tough as a Robin Hood, but when someone like Gerard Sanderink starts giving you a hard time, you’re gone in no time – even if you’ve been right a hundred times. That is why I think it is so important to say that my employer covers me and ensures that there is a really good lawyer available. That there is a legal department that reads my posts and listens to podcasts before they are published. So I can express myself without fear on this matter.”

Army of Information Officers

Investigative journalism is not getting any easier, according to Angelique Kunst, who has worked for Twentsche Courant Tubantia for 36 years: “Journalism used to be much simpler. If you called an official, you must also speak to an official. Now there is an entire army of information officers and communications specialists trying to spin a story. Anyone who has a say in this country has gone through communication training that usually involves either saying nothing or communicating a positive message. This makes it increasingly difficult to find out the truth. It also makes the role of investigative journalists more important because the honest story is almost never told anymore. Fortunately, there is more room for that in the newsrooms than before.”

‘Podcasting is a very good tool’

“I now discover through this series that podcasting is a very good means of drawing attention to stories with social value. Because let’s be honest: not everyone still reads newspapers, while as a journalist and publisher you still want to ensure that the message reaches the public. The more platforms you use for it, the better. At Tubantia we now also notice that previously published articles about Sanderink are being read much more thanks to the podcast series. So yes, platforms like video, social media and podcasting must be used as much as possible to get the message out to as many target groups as possible.”

Huge profits

“Over the last few weeks, I’ve had an amazing amount of responses from people saying, ‘I’ve been listening to podcasts and I didn’t know anything about this affair. Now all of a sudden they’re reading the newspaper articles and the book and slamming everything about Sanderink and Van Rijbroek up via social media with the thought: heck, my passport information is also in their digital systems. The fact that people didn’t know that before the podcast series, and now they do, I think is a huge win.”

Influence of drivers

Kunst has previously researched questionable practices in society for his newspaper: “It happened in the health sector with rogue agencies that used health money to drive expensive cars and go on luxury holidays. It was hugely exciting, because sometimes you have to deal with people who are not afraid of violence and intimidation. So it took a lot of courage to tackle it. But it also put me on the trail of other things. Which got me thinking: If I dig deep enough into this, a story will emerge that is relevant enough to influence administrators to change their policy. It’s nice to see that if you write about it often enough, governments will actually do something about it. It also helps in the Sanderink case to establish that intervention is necessary. I will also write about it until it happens. And I certainly don’t let that scare me.”

The complete podcast series Under the spell of Rian can be listened to via this AD page.

Text: Carl Lunenborg

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