Expatica news

Belgium’s jet-set dole fraud

9 June 2004

BRUSSELS – Many Belgian pilots who work for foreign airlines are still claiming unemployment benefit in their home country, it was reported on Wednesday.

Citing official Belgian investigations, La Libre Belgique newspaper said that “tens” of pilots who were hired by foreign firms after losing jobs with defunct Belgian carriers Sabena, City Bird and Sobelair were still claiming unemployment benefit at home.

The pilots in question were also avoiding Belgian taxes as they were being paid abroad, the newspaper added.

“Why do certain Belgian pilots have to return to Belgium once a month?” asked La Libre Belgique ironically, before explaining that the aviators had to sign on with their local unemployment office every 30 days in order to keep receiving benefits.

The practice is of course completely illegal, the newspaper pointed out.

According to La Libre Belgique’s investigation, Irish low-cost airline Ryanair unwittingly employs several of the dole-fraud pilots.

However, the newspaper was quick to point out that there was no suggestion whatsoever that the budget carrier knew that the pilots were still claiming unemployment benefit.

The company’s “good faith was not in question,” said the newspaper.

La Libre Belgique contacted Ryanair spokesman David Geering who said he was “very surprised” by the news and added that his firm had always acted entirely correctly when it came to employing pilots.

The newspaper also said that many of the pilots accused of the benefit scam were hired via a London-based company called ‘Brookfield.’

But, as with the airlines, the newspaper did not say Brookfield was aware of what the pilots were up to.

Belgian pilots union BeCA quickly moved to distance itself from the actions of the high flying benefit fraudsters.

The union pointed out that there are now 400 Belgian pilots working abroad and that the fraud allegations centre on a very small minority of that total.

“If certain pilots decide not to listen to our advice and behave like outlaws, then we regret that,” BeCA Secretary General told La Libre Belgique.

[Copyright Expatica 2004]

Subject: Belgian news