The issue of chemical exports to Syria by three Flemish companies was not raised by the press or the opposition, but by Customs, Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said on radio on Thursday. “It’s Customs that has taken legal action,” Reynders said on Bel RTL radio. “There is an investigation by the Office of the Public Prosecutor so it’s the Belgian State that is pointing a finger at three Flemish companies.”
“It’s not journalists or parliamentarians that found something out, as I’ve sometimes been hearing in the past few hours,” he said on RTBF Channel 1 in response to some opposition parties that questioned the Government’s action in this regard on Wednesday.
If the investigation shows that errors were made by the companies or the administration, “there will be sanctions”, Reynders added.
The Foreign Minister stressed that Belgium “is at the forefront in the fight against chemical weapons and will continue to be”. He recalled that Belgium was the first country to have been attacked with chemical weapons, during World War I.
Three Belgian companies have been sued for contributing to the export of dozens of tonnes of “banned” chemicals to Syria and Lebanon after July 2013. Some of these chemicals, such as isopropanol, can be used in manufacturing chemical weapons.
In response to questions about its role in the matter, the Customs Department has referred to “erroneous declarations” by the companies.