The former head of the country’s Gaming Commission has been given a suspended sentence of 12 months by a court in Brussels after appearing on charges of internal hacking.
Peter Naessens was alleged to have ordered his head of IT, Norbert Boyen, to hack into the computer of the Commission’s president Etienne Marique after Marique had filed a complaint against the two in May 2019 alleging they had stolen and sold the Commission's servers.
That charge turned out to be unfounded, but the investigation revealed that Naessens and Boyen had conspired to break into Marique’s mailbox and copied many of his emails onto a USB stick.
All three men were suspended from duty.
According to the defence, the whole affair arose from internal disputes at the top of the Gaming Commission, which is responsible for supervising all manner of gaming and betting activities in Belgium, including casinos, gaming arcades, online betting and racetracks.
"Etienne Marique had been president for 20 years, while a president could serve at most two terms of six years," said Anne Marie De Clerck for the defence.
“My client became a director in 2015 after his predecessor, Marc Callu, resigned to become an advisor to a gambling interest group. As director of the secretariat, my client wanted to get rid of a number of abuses and the interference of the politically-appointed committee. He was not thanked for that.”
Nonetheless, neither Naessens nor Boyen denied the charges against them, offering only pleas in mitigation.
The court, however, found that the circumstances did not excuse the offence, in particular since the two men - in the capacity with the Commission - have the status of judicial police officers.
“The facts are extremely serious," the court said. “Both of them abused their authority as senior civil servants and in doing so violated the ethics of their position.”
In addition to the suspended sentences, Naessens was fined €24,000, one-third suspended, and Boyen €20,000, half of it suspended.