Pembroke: Hard cell for Van der Valk. Gerrit?

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The Independent Online
It is a scene that might have sprung from one of the scripts of Van der Valk, the 1960s television series about a Dutch detective. Gerrit van der Valk (no relation), founder of one of the Netherlands' most successful hotel and restaurant chains, has been arrested on a Caribbean island on charges of tax fraud.

According to a justice ministry official, the 65-year-old hotelier, who is hailed as a model rags-to-riches story in his home country, was taken into custody on Sunday night on the Dutch island of Curacao. Fourteen other staffers, including six other family members, have also been rounded up.

The Van der Valk family have issued a statement proclaiming their innocence and lambasting the authorities. They seem unhappy to say the least that the Big Cheese was taken into custody while swimming in one of his hotel pools with his wife and grandchildren. Cue Barry Foster. Cue credits. Dum dum dum DUM DUM DUM . . .

Sir Michael Perry, chairman of Unilever, the soap suds-to-I can't believe it's not butter conglomerate, is obviously relaxing into his role after two years at the helm. At yesterday's results meeting, he even re-instated the Unilever joke, a regular piece of wit pioneered by his rather more ebullient predecessor, Sir Michael Angus.

Sir Michael (Perry), not exactly industry's answer to Ben Elton, stood up yesterday and likened his task to that of the seventh husband of Elizabeth Taylor in the hotel room on their wedding night. 'I'm thinking: I know why I'm here and what I'm supposed to be doing. The problem is to make it interesting.'

The reaction, I am told, may mean next year's results meetings return to their previous mirthless state.

Londoners visiting Bangkok later this spring may recognise some of the boats chugging up and down the Chao Phraya river. The fleet will include eight of the former Docklands Riverbuses that used to ply the Thames from Chelsea to the Isle of Dogs before the service glug- glugged into receivership last August. The eight jet-propelled catamarans were sold yesterday to the Siam Development and Holding Company of Bangkok for an undisclosed sum.

The boats, with a quick paint job and air conditioning to counter the city's pressure cooker climate, will carry tourists up the Chao Phraya river from Bangkok to the old capital of Ayuthaya. Cynics wonder whether the boats will be able to withstand the shock of carrying more than seven passengers at a time.

Big wheels in the car business finally held their Christmas dinner last night, more than two months after the original bash was cancelled. The December meeting of the All Party Motor Industry Group had to be abandoned after the function fell on the same evening as an important social security vote.

Keynote speaker Mike Goldsmith dazzled the audience with his vision of the car of the future, forseeing a vehicle with special paint that would never get dirty, and the emergence of car brokers who would guide buyers around the mind-boggling choice.

The evening was given an additional frisson by the presence of representatives from both Rover and Honda, its jilted bride. I hear the pair were seated at separate tables.

Birmingham, the city that brought you the Birmingham SuperPrix (it rained like never before) and some of the worst urban architecture in Britain, is running up its promotional flag again.

Never the faintheart, Brum has launched itself (again) as Europe's meeting place.

With a new logo and pounds 1.2m to play with, the city fathers are hoping to capitalise on Birmingham's assets as a centre for conferences and its leisure attractions.

These include, they say, the Birmingham Royal Ballet, Cadbury World (a factory tour with a large sweet shop at the end) and the Gas Hall exhibition centre, which, I am told, is a big barn of a building where Brummies used to pay their gas bills.