Francophone socialists left scarred by sleaze

3rd October 2005, Comments 0 comments

3 October 2005, BRUSSELS – Belgium's French-speaking socialists were left in disarray on Monday after a leading councillor was charged with fraud and Wallonia's Minister-President was forced to resign over the scandal.

3 October 2005

BRUSSELS – Belgium's French-speaking socialists were left in disarray on Monday after a leading councillor was charged with fraud and Wallonia's Minister-President was forced to resign over the scandal.

Investigations have been under way since the end of last month when three leading Charleroi socialists were accused of corruption in their management of a social housing company.

Claude Despiegeleer, Serge Van Bergen and Andre Liesse resigned their positions on the management board of the social housing project 'La Caroloregienne' after the allegations, first made on RTBF's radio show 'Vivacite'.

The claims were based on audits from 2001 and 2002. Despiegeleer is accused of having spent BEF 730 000 (EUR 18 096) in restaurants in 2001, along with BEF 400 000 (EUR 9 916) on food and wine.

Over several years, the housing company transferred funds to a not-for-profit company called L'Ecrin. In 2001, the audit shows L'Ecrin's expenditure included a monthly salary to Despiegeleer of BEF 21 000 (EUR 521) and to Petit of EUR 486.

Although the management committee only met twice in 2001, the 12 members received payments of BEF 136 000 (EUR 3 371).

On Friday, police searched the home and office of Despiegeleer and arrested and charged the former sports councillor with abusing his public office, fraud and breaches of accounting law.

The day afterwards, Wallonia's PS minister-president Jean-Claude Van Cauwenberghe announced his resignation. Van Cauwenberghe has also been the subject of allegations over the affair, with reports claiming his lawyer's office worked for the housing company.

He has also been criticised for failing to answer questions on the scandal and for defending the initial decision of Despiegeller, Van Bergen and Liesse not to resign from their positions on Charleroi town council.

On Monday afternoon, the socialists were awaiting a decision by PS leader Elio Di Rupo on who would replace Van Cauwenberghe. The Belgian press generally concluded that only Di Rupo had the charisma and public recognition to head Wallonia's parliament.

However, the media pointed out that most of his party believe Di Rupo is badly needed at the head of his party and could not do both jobs.

Wallonia's vice-president Philippe Moureaux told news agency Belga Di Rupo had a difficult decision to make. He added: "If what has been said about La Caroloregienne is true, it's scandalous and unforgiveable."

Isabelle Durant, federal secretary for green party Ecolo, though, accused PS of hypocrisy. "There are clearly two PS, that of its statements and that which it practises," she said.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Belgian news

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