The former chief financial officer of entertainment company Studio 100 has been found guilty of fraud by a court in Antwerp and sentenced to 40 months in prison, half of it suspended.
Maarten Stevens first came to the attention of the authorities as a result of an internal audit of the company in 2016. Irregularities were discovered, and a judicial investigation launched.
Studio 100 is one of the most prominent entertainment companies in Belgium, and particularly in Flanders as well as the Netherlands and Germany. It produces TV shows for children and live musicals for adults, runs theme parks, introduced the world to girl group K3 and their successors and has made billions for front-men Hans Bourlon and Gert Verhulst, a former continuity announcer who now has a talk show, cookery shows and, with his family, his own reality show.
Stevens, investigators found, had for years been milking money from the company by using fake invoices to have money filtered via shell companies he controlled into his own accounts. The scam could be dated from 2005, and was discovered in 2016, during which time Stevens had salted away some €5.5 million.
According to the prosecution, Stevens had now tried to hide his ill-gotten gains. The money went on sports cars, a €77,000 kitchen refit, game consoles, flatscreen TVs, jaunts to Las Vegas and gifts for his wife, as well as escort girls, the prosecution implied.
As well as a prison sentence, he was also ordered to pay a fine of €16,000, and damages likely to run into the tens of thousands. The sum of €4 million in his possession was seized and will be returned to Studio 100.
Stevens was standing trial in Antwerp along with two alleged accomplices, a man and a woman. The man, an accountant who was accused of helping Stevens set up his various frauds, was sentenced to 30 months with half suspended, and banned from practising his profession for life. The woman was acquitted.