Investigators swoop on army officers’ homes in dawn raids
24 November 2004
BRUSSELS – The private homes of ten senior army officials have been searched in a new fraud investigation against the Belgian forces.
La Derniere Heure reported on Wednesday that the dawn raids were ordered by Judge Damien Vandermeersch.
The operation follows a swoop on the armed forces in May, when around 30 officers were arrested over a fraud scam.
Federal police officers were spotted on Wednesday at a building block holding the highest concentration of senior-ranking officers in the army.
The Budget and Finance division of the armed forces is also located there.
This authorises the buying of equipment and furniture for messes and military clubs.
Operation Mess, as it has been named, comprises financial and information technology experts.
The affair began on 24 March with the arrest of the accountant at the Prince Albert Club on Rue des Petits Carmes.
He had been running a EUR 600,000 budget since the 1990s, and was freed after three months.
However, the large size of the budget attracted the attention of investigators who decided to probe other military clubs.
In September, some officers denounced financial abuse at a club in Ghent.
The case revolved around false bills, black market work, VAT fraud, abuse of services and alcohol abuse.
According to information obtained by RTL, this week’s searches focussed on two VIP clubs frequented by the elite of the military hierarchy.
One club is found in the Queen Elisabeth quarter and the other at the end of Avenue Louise, known as the house of Generals.
The judicial authorities are investigating leads relating to food delicacies such as caviar, wines and champagnes.
The raids bring the total of investigations brought against the army in nine months to 110.
Thirty five suspects have been charged but are still free, and the sum involved tops EUR 25 million.
[Copyright Expatica 2004]
Subject: Belgian news