Saturday

13th Apr 2024

Belgian spy services launch internal clear-up

  • Belgian security services protect EU (such as the Commission HQ) and Nato institutions in the country under old bilateral agreements (Photo: European Commission)

Belgian intelligence services, responsible for protecting the EU and Nato, have launched a major clear-up amid fears of Russian and other infiltration.

Belgium's intelligence oversight body, the so-called Comite R, opened an investigation into some 20 cases a few months ago, Belgian newspaper Die Tijd reported on Saturday (25 January).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

About 15 were in the military intelligence service, the ADIV, and five more were in its homeland service, the VSSE, Die Tijd said.

The VSSE denied that there were any cases in its ranks, however. Die Tijd's information was false, the Belgian homeland service told EUobserver.

Some of the cases concerned Russia, while some concerned other foreign powers, Die Tijd also said.

One was a former ADIV officer who owned a VIP jet service firm with a Russian major and a suspected Chechen mobster, EUobserver learned from a Belgian security source.

In a sign of the scale of the Comite R clean-up, the two Belgian services have just 1,300 or so personnel combined.

They form a thin blue line, protecting EU and Nato buildings and the 47,000 or so EU and Nato staff who live in Belgium from foreign espionage on top of their national security work.

And Brussels plays host to hundreds of Russian and Chinese spies, the EU institutions have in the past warned.

The Belgian military intelligence chief, Claude Van de Voorde, told Die Tijd in a rare public statement that the investigation would not be easy.

It was hard to find a "smoking gun" and the last time Belgium had successfully convicted a traitor in court was in the 1980s, the ADIV chief noted.

"We can confirm there is not one case of real infiltration known to our service," a spokeswoman for the VSSE added.

The Comite R will also look more broadly at how the ADIV and VSSE can better defend themselves in future.

It is led by a magistrate and has 16 officials and six investigators. It answers to parliament but is to give any evidence of wrongdoing it might find to courts.

News of the sweep comes after a VSSE whistleblower recently accused its head of counter-intelligence of being worryingly soft on Russia.

A Comite R investigator also threatened him and his family when he raised the matter internally, the whistleblower told EUobserver.

And the sweep comes after the ADIV's counter-intelligence chief was suspended last year for mishandling secret files in another sign of wider problems.

Belgian security services protect EU and Nato institutions situated in the country under old bilateral agreements.

"We have jurisdiction within our premises and the Belgian government has jurisdiction outside. We therefore cooperate closely on all aspects of security," an EU Council spokesman previously told EUobserver.

The "safety and protection" of Nato facilities was "ultimately assured" by Belgian services, a Nato spokesman said.

But for British intelligence expert Mark Galeotti, from University College London, Belgium has "shockingly" underinvested in its international duties.

"Talking to officials in Europe, I've often encountered concern about Brussels as a weak link for the EU and Nato. It's got that reputation," Galeotti told EUobserver in a previous interview.

EU warned on 'vigilance' after Davos spy fail

European counter-intelligence services need to "seriously raise the level of vigilance" on Russian spies, UK activist Bill Browder has said after news of a botched operation at Davos.

Investigation

Spy-air? EU warned on VIP jet leasing

Flying EU and Nato VIPs on part-Chinese jets could be a security risk, some have warned, but that was just a "James Bond" fantasy, the jet company said.

Opinion

Potential legal avenues to prosecute Navalny's killers

The UN could launch an independent international investigation into Navalny's killing, akin to investigation I conducted on Jamal Khashoggi's assassination, or on Navalny's Novichok poisoning, in my role as special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, writes the secretary-general of Amnesty International.

Latest News

  1. UK-EU deal on Gibraltar only 'weeks away'
  2. Belgium declares war on MEPs who took Russian 'cash'
  3. Brussels Dispatches: Foreign interference in the spotlight
  4. Calling time on Amazon's monopolism and exploitation
  5. Resist backlash on deforestation law, green groups tell EU
  6. China's high-quality development brings opportunities to the world
  7. Ukraine tops aid list again, but EU spending slumps
  8. Who did Russia pay? MEPs urge spies to give names

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us