Police paid a total 862 informants last year, a 9% increase from 2020, according to sources in the Federal Police obtained by La Dernière Heure on 24 May.
On average, two informants received money in exchange for information every day last year, mostly relating to activities linked to Belgium’s criminal underworld. As a result of these informants, police were able to seize more than €4 million in illegal assets across Belgium.
These financial incentives can range between as low as €50 and as high as “several thousand euros” according to the head of the Federal Police’s Special Techniques Department, Melissa Cornelis.
“The remuneration of an informant depends on the risk they run and the value of the information. The definition of an informant is very precise in the law: it must be a person who has contacts within the criminal world. It is, therefore, necessary to be close to it.”
In many countries, the police rely on financial incentives in order to receive confidential information from informants. Since 2012, the U.S Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other agencies have paid informants $548 million, with some single payments being as large as $1 million.
The highest value intelligence often places the criminal in significant danger, and compensation must be significant.
Nevertheless, there are those who oppose the practice. Confidential informants are often permitted to continue committing crimes while police pursue bigger suspects and are rewarded whilst doing so.
The Belgian police agent insists that by paying money to criminals, investigations into crime cost less. Money is also only paid out when the information is useful to the investigation.
“Informants play an essential role in certain criminal investigations. Many other means can thus be saved thanks to their collaboration,” Cornelis stated. “Thanks to the information obtained, we know better where and who to look for.
Unfortunately in Belgium, some police even work as informants for criminals. Several police officers and public servants were implicated in ‘Operation Sky’, which busted open a massive organised drug trafficking in the country.
Similarly, in 2020, a Brussels police officer was arrested for sharing info to the brother of the mastermind of the Brussels and Paris terror attacks.