Charleroi Mayor resigns amid corruption scandal
24 May 2006
BRUSSELS — The Charleroi Mayor stood down on Wednesday in the aftermath of a new corruption scandal within the Francophone Socialist PS party.
Jacques Van Gompel said he would place his mandate at the disposal of his party and the residents of Charleroi.
The move came as his private secretary, Patrick Henseval, was charged on Tuesday with forgery, active corruption, embezzlement of public money and forming a criminal gang.
The charges relate to his functions at a volleyball club and not his position of private secretary to the Charleroi mayor.
The manager of the basketball club Spirou, Eric Somme, was also charged with forgery, active corruption and embezzlement of public money. He was not remanded in custody, however.
A visibly shaken Van Gompel said on Wednesday he had asked himself what could be done for the city and its residents.
In placing his mandate at the disposal of the PS party and the city of Charleroi, he said he would resign immediately if it is proven that he is at the centre of the corruption scandal.
“If people think that I should remain as mayor, then I will also want that, 100 percent,” he said.
PS leader and Wallonian Premier Elio Di Rupo later said he had discussed the situation with several involved parties and was of the opinion that Van Gompel had the capacity to lead Charleroi.
“His attitude compels in me a sort of admiration. He gives a glimpse of courage and dignity in a difficult situation,” Di Rupo said.
Di Rupo had earlier urged his party to take tougher sanctions in the wake of a new corruption scandal among the Wallonian party.
The latest crisis within the Francophone Socialists escalated on Tuesday when 30 house raids were carried out in Charleroi.
The raids were the result of investigations that started last September into alleged fraud at the social housing company La Carolorégienne.
Suspicious documents linked to disgraced former sports alderman Claude Despiegeleer — implicated in the La Carolorégienne affair — are said to have sparked the raids.
Police were intrigued by cash flows between various departments over which the alderman presided.
Meanwhile, the municipal department of the PS party in Charleroi requested Alderman Lucien Cariat to resign on Tuesday.
Cariat has arrested on fraud charges and abuse of social funds relating to the rubbish disposal firm ICDI. The financial director ICDI, Christian Blondeel, has also been arrested.
Another PS politician, Jean-Pierre De Clercq has been accused of embezzling EUR 213,283, but has so far escaped with a reprimand from his party.
[Copyright Expatica News 2006]
Subject: Belgian news