'All hands on deck': Belgian local authorities get extra tools to fight organised crime

'All hands on deck': Belgian local authorities get extra tools to fight organised crime
A policeman pictured at the scene of a shooting incident in Merksem, Antwerp. Credit: Belga/Kristof Van Accom

Belgium's Federal Government will give additional tools to local authorities in the fight against organised crime and drug-related violence, which will allow them to close down rogue businesses where drug money is laundered, for example.

While there is no miracle solution to fight drug-related crime, the answer lies in a shared approach across policy domains and levels of government, stressed Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden, whose Administrative Enforcement Act was finally approved on Friday.

"It is all hands on deck. Organised crime is increasingly nestling in the upper world and the social fabric in recent years. Certain businesses are being used as a front to launder drug money and engage in rogue trading," Verlinden said in a press release. "With the Administrative Enforcement Act, we meet the demand of local governments to be able to intervene against this."

"This way, we make our cities and municipalities more liveable and safer: less nuisance, more opportunity for entrepreneurs and less risk for the police and the Justice Department," she added. The law gives local governments a legal basis to take action against undermining crime. For example, it provides for local governments to close down rogue businesses after a thorough integrity investigation.

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A Directorate of Integrity Assessment for Public Administrations (DIOB) will be set up at the FPS Home Affairs. As a central body, it will be able to access relevant information, such as from the judicial authorities, the anti-money laundering cell, the tax inspectorate, and the social inspectorate, for example. On this basis, it will advise local administrations in the context of integrity investigations.

Additionally, the draft provides tools to better enforce closures of rogue businesses, such as "administrative closure," which allows the closure of access to a closed establishment, and the "administrative fine," which forces the person in charge to comply with a measure imposed.

The Arrondissement Information and Expertise Centres (ARIECs) are also being further developed. Such centres have already been established in the provinces of Antwerp, Limburg and Namur, and advise local authorities, among other things.

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