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Belgian rail president accused of corruption

Fontinoy, now chairman of the board of the SNCB. © Belga

The president of the board of the national rail authority SNCB, Jean-Claude Fontinoy, is being investigated by the Brussels prosecutor’s office on an allegation of corruption, according to Le Soir.

The allegation concerns events in 2017, when Fontinoy was the right-hand man to federal foreign affairs minister Didier Reynders (MR). Reynders went on to become a European Commissioner, while Fontinoy became head of the SNCB.

The allegation refers to the complicated dossier of frozen funds of the Libyan government of Muammar Gaddafi, which had involved not only Libya but also Prince Laurent.

Prince Laurent was head of a non-profit carrying out a reforestation programme in the desert country. In 2010, the Gaddafi government suddenly broke the contract for the programme, freezing millions of the non-profit’s money.

Gaddafi was deposed and killed in 2011, but the prince had been lobbying doggedly ever since for the non-profit’s funds to be released, without success.

A Belgian court judgement in 2014 sided with the prince for the sum of €48 million, but the new Libyan regime continued to resist.

The claim that Fontinoy took a bribe from a well-known Brussels businessman, reported as €50,000, was made in a sworn statement made at the end of last year, which was delivered to the prosecutor of Liege, Christian Valkeneer.

Given Fontinoy’s position at the time of the allegation, it was passed on to the Brussels prosecutor-general’s office, where a spokesperson confirmed to Le Soir it had been received and passed on to the prosecutor.

The details of the allegation remain cloudy. The legal authorities have declined further comment for the time being.

Meanwhile Reynders, now EU Commissioner for justice, commented, “This is not the first time I have heard comments on this subject, but I have no information.”

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times