Charleroi socialists accused of abuse of power
16 September 2005
BRUSSELS – Four members of Charleroi’s socialist party who manage a social housing company stand accused of defrauding their local community.
On Friday morning, the radio programme ‘Vivacite’ on RTBF revealed audits from 2001 and 2002, suggesting mismanagement and financial abuse had taken place at the company La Caroloregienne.
The company, which manages 3,000 homes in the area, was run by three local councillors, Claude Despiegelee, Andre Liesse and Serge Van Bergen, along with an honorary senator, Francis Petit – all members of PS.
Despigeleer is alleged to have 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 Despiegelee of BEF 21,000 (EUR 521) and to Petit of EUR 486.
Although the management committee only met twice in 2001, for the two meetings, the 12 members received payments of BEF 136,000 (EUR 3,371).
Wallonia’s minister for housing Andre Antoine called for an immediate investigation to get to the bottom of the allegations.
It is understood that police are investigating the charges and that on Thursday morning searches were carried out at the office of La Caroloregienne and SWL and accounts were seized.
Members of the centre-right MR party and the Christian Social CDH party have called for the three councillors to resign from the company and the council.
MR councillor Olivier Chastel has posted the audit results on his website, but on Friday, the Walloon Society for Housing, SWL, took out a court injunction to order him to remove it.
Despiegeeler, who is currently abroad on business, sent a statement to the press, denouncing the allegations as “a political conspiracy” and stating his expenses had been totally justified. He said he had had to go abroad several times for the company.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Belgian news