Belgian Foreign Minister Faces Corruption Probe

Belgian police are investigating allegations of corruption and money-laundering against Didier Reynders, the country’s foreign minister and the nominee to be the EU’s next justice commissioner.

Reynders has denied the accusations which, according to De Tijd newspaper, relate to the construction of the Belgian embassy building in Kinshasa, the lease of a federal police HQ and other matters.

The preliminary probe, conducted by police and overseen by a prosecutor, adds to the investigations hanging over several nominees for the next European Commission, which was unveiled by President-elect Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday.

According to the accusations against Reynders, money was received or laundered via the purchase of antiques and real estate, some in transactions involving tax havens.

Reynders, a Francophone liberal who also serves as deputy prime minister and defense minister and had a long stint as finance minister, told journalists: “I am absolutely unaware of an investigation.”

Reynders said he had asked his lawyer to make contact with prosecutors to defend his rights and to deny the allegations against him.

The investigation was triggered by a statement from a former Belgian intelligence officer in the service’s economic section, De Tijd reported.

A spokesman for Reynders, John Hendrickx, suggested the allegations were part of a dishonest campaign to discredit the minister. “Perhaps this is again a montage of the same malicious man who is constantly trying to [do] damage,” he said.

The Brussels public prosecutors’ office confirmed to POLITICO that a criminal investigation into Reynders was underway, and that the De Tijd story was accurate.

Prosecutors emphasised that more radical measures such as house searches could only take place if the initial inquiry was elevated to a full judicial investigation.

Politico EU | September 14th, 2019
https://www.politico.eu/article/belgium-commission-pick-under-investigation-didier-reynders/