Dozens of Antwerp police officers who used citizen identities to gamble online have not been penalised, with their years-old files put on hold indefinitely due to a lack of a federal government.
In 2017, Antwerp’s public prosecutor opened an investigation after 60 police officers were found to be gambling online, an act which is strictly forbidden for police under Belgium’s gaming laws.
The investigation found that the officers were using citizen’s identity data to access online gambling sites, in what gaming authorities in 2017 recognised as a large-scale problem within the local police.
“It is not just a single policeman and it is not purely recreational,” Peter Naessens, director of the Gaming Commission told VRT at the time, adding that there were large amounts at play which sometimes exceeded the average monthly salary.
While the majority of the officers’ files were handed over to the Gaming Commission, one officer was ordered to appear before a court after he was found to be using several different identities.
The penalties foreseen by the commission in cases where a legal gaming ban has been bypassed can amount to up to €200,000, but with the government in a caretaker capacity, the officers’ files are among the 110 recently put on hold by the commission, according to Het Nieuwsblad.
The decision was taken in part to avoid procedural errors, the outlet reports, adding that Justice Minister Koen Geens said that the commission’s backlog would be cleared within six months.
The move prompted criticism from green party MP Stefaan Van Hecke, who said that the officers’ cases underscored recurrent malfunctions within the commission.
“It is a constant [problem] that the Gaming Commission is not running as it should, this is just one defect in a whole series,” Van Hecke said, adding that weak regulations would see Belgium become “Las Vegas in the North Sea.”