Belgian minister opens probe into judge corruption claims

19th August 2009, Comments 0 comments

Belgium's justice minister on Tuesday ordered a criminal investigation into police accusations of corruption against Francine De Tandt, the head of the Brussels trade tribunal.

Justice Minister Stefaan De Clerck said that he had ordered an enquiry to determine whether De Tandt had done anything wrong, speaking at a press conference in Brussels.

De Tandt, 63, stands accused by the head of Brussels' judicial police, Glenn Audenaert, of accepting bribes to support cases brought by a lawyer specialised in recovering funds from businessmen in divorce cases.

Appeal court prosecutor General Marc de le Court must now appoint a judge to determine whether the corruption charges are justified.

"We have to find out what happened, this is a major case for Belgium and I want clarity as soon as possible. It is unacceptable that judges should be suspected of corruption," the minister added.

Audenaert, who also accused other unnamed magistrates of corruption, brought the matter to the ministry's attention last month intimating that senior magistrates had always put up hurdles to investigating De Tandt's actions.

De Tandt and the other lawyers involved deny the accusations, talking of a plot by Audenaert because some of the divorce cases involved his own friends. 

De Clerck said that there was no indication of corruption involving other magistrates, "but if the instructing magistrate deems it necessary the investigation can be expanded to include other people.”

The minister said that he did not have powers to remove De Tandt from her position, as it is in the hands of her colleagues in the judiciary to consider the verdict.

Meanwhile the Belgian parliament's justice committee decided to hold an emergency meeting next Monday to consider the matter which the government says poses a threat to "the credibility of Belgium's democratic institutions."


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