The council chamber in Charleroi announced its order in the “Sodexo” case, named after the firm distributing meals to primary state schools, on Monday. Jean-Claude Van Cauwenberghe and the former alderman Jean-Pol Demacq are amongst the 6 suspects indicted. The former is accused of favouring Sodexo for the price of 2 gourmet meals. The case involves forgery, embezzlement, and corruption, charges withheld against all 6 suspects, including the former Charleroi alderman in charge of Education Jean-Pol Demacq, and Jean-Claude Van Cauwenberghe who was town councillor and president of the Town Socialist Union at the time.
Sodexo signed a procurement contract for school meals in state primary schools in Charleroi in 2003. This included 750 meals per day, of which only 500 were actually eaten, which implied a shortfall for the company. According to the prosecutor, Sodexo seduced Jean-Claude Van Cauwenberghe, Jean-Pol Demacq and 2 town council employees and convinced them to balance out this loss, estimated at 156,000 euros, by inflating invoices. To this end, Jean-Claude Van Cauwenberghe was treated to 2 gourmet meals at the Michelin-starred “Sea Grill” restaurant, and at another establishment in Ramatuelle (south of France), for a total of over 1,800 euros. He was asked to influence the then-alderman Jacques Van Gompel so that Charleroi would pay out compensation for loss to Sodexo in 2005 and 2006.
Alderman Demacq and 2 other council employees are suspected of pushing the Sodexo application at the time the procurement contract was chosen in 2003, in particular, by allowing a technician from the firm’s usual sub-contractor to visit all the schools under the guise of a council worker. Certain specifications were also added to the list of requirements. However whether or not the alderman and the 2 employees accepted trips or meals in exchange for this favour is not clear. Therefore that particular charge of corruption has been dismissed.
The council chamber in Charleroi reckons there are sufficient elements to send the suspects to the criminal courts. An appeal in front of the Mons grand jury is still possible.