Belgian minister ‘linked to army fraud scandal’
12 May 2004
BRUSSELS – Belgium’s Defence Minister Andre Flahaut could well be questioned by magistrates investigating a massive fraud that has seen the Belgian army swindled out of millions of euros, it was reported on Wednesday.
According Belgian newspaper La Derniere Heure, the Belgian state prosecution service is currently examining a number of witness statements that call into question the role Flahaut has played in the scandal, which has already seen 28 people arrested, including 18 soldiers.
The newspaper added that at present it seemed unlikely that the prosecution service would ask for Flahaut’s parliamentary immunity to be lifted in connection with the affair, meaning there is no suggestion at the moment of any serious criminal proceedings against the Defence Minister.
But La Derniere Heure did say that it was quite likely that the investigators would open an official file on Flahaut’s role in the scandal.
The Defence Minister himself told the newspaper he was not surprised that the prosecutors appeared to have their eyes on him.
He said that he had “felt from the outset” that people were trying to get to him.
But he added that any allegations against him were just “rumours” and that he was not concerned by the investigation.
“I have done nothing wrong. We should let the investigators do their job,” he said.
According to investigators, the army fraud, which had been going on for several years, essentially worked in two ways.
Firstly it is alleged army officers and civilians who were involved with the scandal conspired to draw up fake bills that were presented to the army for non-existent goods or services.
The proceeds from these bills were then distributed among the alleged fraudsters.
The second element of the fraud involved real goods that were, on the face of it, bought for the army but that ended up being shared out among the members of the fraud ring.
Goods bought in this way allegedly included hi-fi systems, lawn mowers and fitted kitchens.
Flahaut has repeatedly criticised the fraudsters, saying their activities brought the entire Belgian army into disrepute.
[Copyright Expatica 2004]
Subject: Belgian news