26 May 2004
BRUSSELS – A further 23 people have been arrested in connection with a huge fraud scandal that has rocked the Belgian army, it was reported on Wednesday.
The new wave of arrests means over 50 people, including at least 30 military personnel, have been arrested and questioned in connection with the affair.
To date 32 of them have been charged with various forms of corruption, Belgian newspaper La Derniere Heure reported.
Among the latest suspects were a colonel and a civilian veterinary surgeon from the city of Namur.
The vet is accused of billing the army for services never provided and of duping the army into buying goods for his own private consumption.
Flemish newspaper De Tijd also reported on Wednesday that there was no proof to support allegations that Belgian Defence Minster Andre Flahaut had in any way been linked to the fraud scandal.
It said one of the prosecutors investigating the case, Jacques De Lentdecker, had indicated that his services were investigating allegations that Flahaut had somehow reacted improperly when the scandal came to light.
But, said De Tijd, there was no evidence to suggest any of the allegations were founded.
The fraud scandal essentially worked in two ways.
First, say investigators, military personnel used army funds – in other words taxpayers’ money – to buy consumer goods that were then used privately by members of the fraud ring.
These goods included fitted kitchens, lawnmowers and mobile telephones.
Second, the fraudsters worked with a number of outside companies that either billed the army for goods and services never provided or over charged for services they did provide.
[Copyright Expatica 2004]
Subject: Belgian news