EU’s Proposed Justice Commissioner Faces Corruption Probe

Belgium’s nominee for EU justice commissioner was part of a corruption scheme involving the Congo and Libya, a Belgian former spy has testified.

The nominee, Belgian foreign minister Didier Reynders, immediately denied the accusations, details of which were seen by EUobserver, but Belgian prosecutors are looking into the affair as he prepares to take up his EU post.

Reynders and an old associate of his called Jean-Claude Fontinoy were part of a “veritable criminal association” involved in taking “bribes” and “money-laundering”, the Belgian former intelligence officer told Belgian federal police in April.

Fontinoy is an expert attached to Reynders’ cabinet and is the president of the Belgian state railway firm, the SNCB, but was “in reality his [Reynders’] right-hand man” in the alleged “corruption operations”, the ex-officer said.

The alleged schemes involved kick-backs on the construction of Belgium’s embassy in Kinshasa in 2017 and pay-offs by a Congelese election candidate in return for diplomatic support, the ex-officer’s six-page police testimony, seen by EUobserver, said.

The alleged schemes also involved clandestine arms sales to Libya and the award of state contracts in Belgium, for instance, on a new police HQ in Brussels, the testimony added.

The accusations were put forward by Nicolas Ullens De Schootens, a former officer in the economic unit of Belgium’s domestic intelligence service, the VSSE.

The 54-year old Belgian aristocrat, who had worked at the VSSE for 11 years, resigned last March then walked into the federal police building on Rue Royale in Brussels at 3.10PM on 2 April this year and spoke out.

He cited interviews with informants, submitted supporting documents, and referred to telephone records.

He named an offshore firm in Luxembourg which allegedly handled bribes and said Belgian real estate and art sales were also used to conceal funds.

News of the fiasco broke at the weekend, when Belgian financial newspaper De Tijd published a story citing the police testimony.

The public prosecutor’s office in Brussels also confirmed that there was an “ongoing” criminal investigation into the testimony, focusing on the case of the Belgian embassy in Kinshasa.

euobserver.com/institutional/145948

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