Friday

18th Oct 2019

Belgium's EU nominee still embroiled in legal feud

  • Belgium's foreign and defence minister, Didier Reynders, is to be the EU commissioner in charge of justice (Photo: Council of the European Union)

Belgium's EU commissioner nominee, Didier Reynders, faces a fresh legal complaint - this time involving death threats - three days after a low-level prosecutor cleared his name.

Nicolas Ullens, a former officer in Belgium's state security service, the VSSE, filed the new complaint at the Belgian federal prosecutor's office on Monday (30 September).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

It alleges Reynders was guilty of taking bribes and of money-laundering.

It says there was no proper follow-up to a series of classified VSSE reports filed by Ullens during his time in the intelligence service and it encloses 18 of those reports.

It also alleges Ullens faced death threats when he tried to raise the alarm.

The threats were allegedly made in 2015 by a person working for the Comite R, Belgium's intelligence oversight body.

"He [the Comite R staff member] told me that something could happen to me, my wife, or my daughters if I continued to talk about these issues," Ullens told EUobserver.

"I slept with a loaded pistol beside my bed for three months afterward," he said.

And his wife corroborated that he had done so.

The new complaint comes three days after the Brussels prosecutors office shut down an investigation into Ullens' original police testimony, made back in April.

The original complaint enclosed just five VSSE reports and made no mention of death threats.

Under Belgian law, the federal prosecutor handles cases dealing with espionage, terrorism, and international crimes.

The Brussels prosecutor handles cases concerning the capital city district.

Belgium also has "general prosecutors" which oversee the work of the district-level bureaus.

The federal prosecutor's office told EUobserver it was forbidden from working on cases involving sitting ministers such as Reynders, however.

"This means we will have to pass the complaint to the general prosecutor," the spokesman said.

The ongoing feud threatens to cast a shadow over Reynders' European Parliament hearing on Wednesday.

The judicial merry-go-round also threatens to make Belgium's justice system look bad at a time when Reynders is meant to enforce EU rule of law in places such as Hungary and Poland.

For his part, Ullens' solicitor, Alexis Deswaef, hinted that the Brussels prosecutors' office had taken a political decision to shut down the case.

"This sudden dismissal, three days before the hearing of Mr Reynders in the European Parliament, is surprising," Deswaef told press in Brussels on Monday, Belgian daily Le Soir reported.

"We are concerned that the basic investigative duties in this case of corruption and money laundering have not been carried out" by the Brussels prosecutor's office, he added.

The Brussels prosecutor responded by denying it had acted under outside pressure.

Its office works "in complete independence," the Brussels prosecutor said.

It remains to be seen how the Belgian general prosecutor will now handle the case.

But Ullens voiced little faith in the system. "They are all trying to pass the hot potato," he said.

Meanwhile, his divulgence of the classified VSSE reports to the prosecutor puts him at risk of a jail sentence.

But Deswaef, his lawyer, argued that he ought to enjoy the kind of protection offered to anybody who raises the alarm on wrongdoing at personal risk to themselves.

"The complainant [Ullens] must be considered a whistleblower," Deswaef told press.

EU sides with Google in data protection case

The European Commission suggests the French data protection watchdog overstretched its remit to make Google delist names on a global scale from search query results, as part of the 'right to be forgotten' rule in the EU's data protection regulation.

News in Brief

  1. EU: US can expect counter measures after tariff move
  2. Almost 7,500 people forcibly returned to Libya in 2019
  3. Puigdemont released after responding to arrest warrant
  4. Commission: Facebook's Libra needs international approach
  5. Italian PM: denial of accession talks a 'historic mistake'
  6. Catalan president blames clashes on 'infiltrators'
  7. US imposes €6.7bn new tariffs on European products
  8. G7: Libra should not operate until all risks addressed

Stalling on VAT reform costing billions, says Commission

German media outlet Correctiv, along with other newsrooms, have revealed how criminals annually cheat EU states out of billions in VAT fraud. The EU Commission says solutions exist - but member states refuse to budge on tax unanimity.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  2. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  3. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  4. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  6. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  10. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  12. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  2. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  3. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  9. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  12. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us