Belgian lawyer found guilty of defrauding AB InBev family of millions

Belgian lawyer found guilty of defrauding AB InBev family of millions
The AB InBev brewery in Jupille in Liege: © AB InBev

A former Belgian lawyer has been found guilty by a court in Geneva of defrauding the heirs of the family of one of the founders of the original Leuven brewer that now forms the basis of AB InBev, the largest beer producer in the world.

The woman, who has not been named in this case but is known from other dealings to be Farida Chofri, took advantage of the two men’s lack of understanding of business to help herself to shares worth an estimated €55 million.

The victims, Patrice and Alexis Bailo, were the adopted sons of Viscountess Amicie de Spoelberch, part of the family that founded what would go on to be the biggest brewery in the world. She married a Serbian businessman late in life and much to the dismay of her family, and did not want his sons to inherit her fortune, then estimated at some €650 million. She had been the Viscountess’s lawyer for years, and drew up two wills for her to sign, one of which arranged for the InBev shares to be transferred to her ownership. She then distributed the shares among a number of offshore accounts to which she alone had access.

The two Bailo sons found out and filed a criminal complaint. Chofri was tried in Luxembourg and sentenced to 24 months in prison, with 15 months suspended. The Geneva court, meanwhile, found her guilty on different charges (thus avoiding double jeopardy) and sentenced her to 30 months, again with 15 months suspended – the prosecution had requested a sentence of four years.

Because she served time in prison while awaiting trial in Switzerland, Chofri will not have to go back to prison there. However there remains the question of the Luxembourg conviction. The Grand Duchy has requested her extradition, when it will be decided whether she must serve the full 24 months or not.

Aside from prison time, she has been ordered to transfer 327,000 InBev shares to the two brothers, as well as €34 million in cash – the estimated value of the shares that have never been recovered. The court also declared forfeit the sum of €30 million – from an estimated fortune of €88 million in her possession.

Chofri thanked the court for the mild sentence, and promised to take the first flight to Luxembourg to serve her sentence there.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

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