Record number of bank accounts opened by undercover police
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    Record number of bank accounts opened by undercover police

    Undercover investigators in fiction © Netflix

    A record number of bank accounts were opened in 2018 by undercover police officers using a false name, according to the latest annual report from the federal prosecutor’s office consulted by De Tijd.

    In 2018, the last year for which there are figures, there were 48 cases of infiltration – police working undercover need to have documents in a false name, which would be an offence in other circumstances. However the law allows it on the instructions of a magistrate.

    The 2018 figure compares to 45 cases in 2017, itself the peak of a growing trend, up from 42 in 2016 and 35 in 2015.

    In five of the 2018 cases, authorisation was sought by a foreign magistrate carrying out an investigation with the help of a Belgian officer. Another 31 were authorised by local prosecutors – principally Brussels, Antwerp and Halle-Vilvoorde. The remainder were on the authorisation of the federal prosecutor.

    In 2018, there were 98 bank accounts opened under a false name as part of the officer’s cover story. That compares to 14 in 2017, 9 in 2016 and 29 in 2015. In addition, there were 52 requests for officers to have a fictional identity included in the national population register.

    July 2018 also saw the approval by the federal parliament of a measure allowing the use of civilians working undercover on police investigations, in serious cases such as organised crime and terrorism. However since the introduction of that possibility 18 months ago, it has yet to be employed in any active case.

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times