The Ghent Court of appeal convicted the former mayor of Wielsbeke, Noël Demeulenaere, and a former communal secretary from Knokke. They were given suspended prison sentences for their role in a corruption scandal. They were first all acquitted by the Court of first instance for a procedural error. Eight officials were also convicted on appeal. The inquiry started in 2003. Six officials were suspected of having accepted gifts and advantages in exchange for favourable intervention in town planning applications. The entrepreneurs and architects implicated in the corruption have not been charged.
Several recorded telephone conversations come from a case file in Courtrai on hormone trafficking at a vet’s cabinet. They were already ruled inadmissible in this case. At the Court of first instance, a Bruges judge came to the same conclusion, and said it was a flagrant violation of the defendant’s rights. They were therefore all acquitted.
On Monday, the Court of appeal came to the same verdict. The recordings were once again thrown out, but certain cases were followed through using other proof. For three of the defendants, the court considered that the charges were invalid due to the time limit. 11 others, including Noël Demeulenaere and the Knokke communal secretary, were convicted.
Mr Demeulenaere was sentenced to seven months in prison suspended, and a fine of 2,750 euros. The communal secretary got 12 months suspended and a 5,500 euro fine. The other defendants received sentences of 1 to 18 months, all suspended, and fines.
Jason Bennett (Source: Belga)