Connect with us

Belgium

#Kazakhgate: Patokh Chodiev’s lawyer lambasts the Commission of Inquiry

Published

on

The Belgian Chamber of Representatives approved the conclusions of the “Kazakhgate” Commission of Inquiry on Thursday, April 26. The next day the lawyer of Kazakh businessman Patokh Chodiev (pictured) held a press conference calling into question the impartiality of the Commission as well as that of its Chairman, Dirk Van der Maelen. Patokh Chodiev is now demanding an apology from the Belgian Government. Indeed, it’s safe to say that the Commission’s conclusions did not satisfy the defence.

On Friday, Patokh Chodiev’s lawyer, Pascal Vanderveeren, held a press conference calling for an indictment of the PIC’s work, deemed to have been riddled with irregularities. A similar call came from Vincent van Quickenborne, an Open-VLD commission member, who tweeted shortly after the proceedings: “The answer to the real question at the heart of the Commission (did the law on the amicable settlement come about with the aim of helping Chodiev?) the answer is clearly ‘No’. Apologies from the Commission are not necessary. Apologies from commission members who gratuitously accused him are.”

 

The final report debunks two of the main theories swirling around Mr. Chodiev and the Kazakhgate case. One, no bribes or corruption were identified during Mr. Chodiev’s application for Belgian nationality. Two, the Commission did not find any evidence to suggest that a foreign power (such as France or Kazakhstan, as was widely speculated in the media) or any associate of Mr. Chodiev influenced the outcome of the legislative process regarding the adoption of the law extending the scope of amicable settlements.

Claiming to be “deeply dissatisfied with the way in which the Commission had carried out its work”, Pascal Vanderveeren strongly denounced the “numerous leaks and selective, salacious, damaging and above all, false information” which flooded the press throughout the parliamentary investigation. Ever since the beginning of the investigation, a steady stream of confidential documents flowed into the Belgian media, raising questions about the MPs’ impartiality. The lawyer also highlighted that, despite multiple requests from MPs, Mr. Van der Maelen never investigated the origin of these leaks.

Mr. Vanderveeren also underlined the long duration of the Commission’s work, lasting over sixteen months – thirteen months longer than the three initially scheduled by its Chairman. Despite this, Mr. Van de Maelen failed to strengthen his majority, and the final report was adopted by a healthy majority.  Eight members of the commission voted for the final version of the report, while four were against. What’s more, two-thirds of the conclusions which were not unanimously adopted, were dropped by Mr. Van der Maelen.

For Pascal Vanderveeren, the Commission’s conclusions only underscore what he and his client have maintained for months: Patokh Chodiev is innocent of all charges brought against him. Mr. Vanderveeren also pointed out that the PIC completely ignored the numerous letters that he and his client had personally addressed to them. The letters in question were never included in the final report, giving further proof of the Commission’s biased attitude.

For Patokh Chodiev’s lawyer, there is no doubting the lack of impartiality of the Commission’s Chairman. Speaking for the majority, MP Sophie De Wit (N-VA) publicly lamented the fact that the Presidency of the Commission had not being entrusted to another colleague.

“The damage caused to Mr. Chodiev by the poor conduct of the Commission and the obsession of Mr. Van der Maelen are significant,” said the lawyer at the end of his speech. He announced that his client intended to seek legal redress in court but would, very reasonably, drop the suit in return for an official apology despite the damage done to him. Throughout the 16 months of the PIC’s investigations, Mr. Chodiev claims that the so-called “revelations” of the media have led to death threats against himself and his family, in addition to the irreparable damage caused to his reputation as a businessman. In Mr. Vanderveeren’s words, the Commission’s work has only served to perpetuate a climate of exaggeration and general suspicion and mistrust towards Russian and Eastern European nationals in Belgium.

However, Mr. Vanderveeren said that Mr. Chodiev is prepared to drop his case against the Belgian government if it gives him a sincere, timely and formal apology. In short, this would be an orderly way to conclude the case, according to Mr. Vanderveeren. His leniency, however, will not extend to Dirk Van der Maelen, whose “aggression” and “misconduct” have irreparably damaged Mr. Chodiev’s reputation, even though the Commission’s report clears him of all charges.

 

Belgium

Coronavirus likely to affect Belgium Poppy Remembrance appeal

Published

on

It is feared that the health pandemic could affect this year's Remembrance Sunday commemorations in Belgium. The coronavirus crisis is likely to have a financial impact on the local Poppy Appeal, given that it is feared the public may well be cautious about the risks of touching collection tins and the poppies themselves. 

Even so, the Legion's Brussels branch plans to go ahead with holding a social distanced/masked ceremony at Heverlee Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery at Leuven on 8 November (11am).

This will be in the presence of British Ambassador Martin Shearman, UK Ambassador to NATO Dame Sarah Macintosh, as well as top brass from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Poland, and Belgium.

Belgian rules currently allow for the event to proceed.

The Brussels branch, which celebrates its centenary in 2022, will be represented by Zoe White MBE (pictured), a former major in the British Army and the first female chair in its history.

White joined the international staff at NATO HQ in Brussels as an executive officer in 2017. She said she moved to NATO "to develop my political knowledge of defence and security matters and, most importantly, to continue to serve in an organization whose ethos and values I truly believe in."

She entered the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 2000, after a short stint in her home unit, the Royal Gibraltar Regiment. She was commissioned into the Royal Signals and served in the Army for 17 years.

White has considerable operational experience. She deployed to Kosovo on Op Agricola, Iraq on Op Telic (three times), Afghanistan on Op Herrick (three times) and Northern Ireland on Op Banner (for two years).

She specialized in providing lifesaving measures to counter radio controlled explosive devices and was awarded the MBE for her work in Iraq, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland.

During her last nine-month operational tour of Afghanistan she was embedded with the US Marine Corps and among other tasks, was responsible for mentoring and training the communications directors across the local uniformed services (Army, Police, Border Patrol) in Helmand - a role, she says, that taught her much about the value of authentic dialogue (and left her with a love of cardamom tea and dates).

Looking back at her military career, she says: "I was privileged to command soldiers who were technical experts and absolute forces of nature. It was a joy to serve with them."

A self-confessed "defence geek", Zoe studied Battlespace Technology at Cranfield University where she expanded her knowledge of heavy armour and "exquisite" weaponry.  She is currently studying for an MBA in her spare time.

Zoe, whose husband David is also a retired Royal Signals officer ,was elected Chair of the Brussels branch of the Royal British Legion in September 2020, succeeding Commodore Darren Bone RN. She is the first female chair of the branch since its launch in 1922.

The Prince of Wales and future King Edward VIII met founding members of the branch in June 1922.

White adds, “I am delighted to take custody of the Branch chair role. It is both a way to meaningfully continue my service to veterans and those still serving, and to continue the tradition of Remembrance in a country where so many made the ultimate sacrifice for the lives we live today.”

Branch website & contact details. 

Continue Reading

Belgium

Commission approves €15.8 million Belgian scheme to support hotels and aparthotels in Brussels in context of coronavirus outbreak

Published

on

The European Commission approved a €15.8 million Belgian scheme to support hotels and aparthotels in the Brussels-Capital Region in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The measure was approved under the state aid Temporary Framework. The public support will take the form of direct grants of €20,000 minimum or €200,000 maximum per hotel or aparthotel. The grants aim to provide support to affected hotels and aparthotels for lost income and ongoing operating costs, such as costs for insurance, maintenance and security.

The purpose of the measure is to mitigate the sudden liquidity shortages that these companies are facing because of the restrictive measures imposed by the government to limit the spread of the virus and to ensure continuity of their economic activity. The Commission found that the Belgian measure is in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. In particular, the support (i) will not exceed €800,000 per company; and (ii) will be granted no later than 31 December 2020.

On this basis, the Commission approved the measure under EU state aid rules. More information on the Temporary Framework and other actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.58763 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

Continue Reading

Belgium

Commission approves €2.2 million Belgian aid measures to support Flemish airports in the context of the coronavirus outbreak

Published

on

The European Commission has approved €2.2 million Belgian aid measures to support the operators of Flemish airports (Antwerp airport, Ostend airport and Kortrijk airport) in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The measures were approved under the state aid Temporary Framework. The measures consist in: (i) an aid scheme, under which all Flemish airport operators will receive support in the form of a direct grant; and (ii) support to the operators of Antwerp and Ostend airports in the form of payment deferrals of certain costs and fees (namely annual compensation for the use of statutory staff of the Flemish Region and concession fee for the use of the airport infrastructure due for the year 2020).

The purpose of the aid measures is to help Flemish airport operators mitigating the liquidity shortages that they have been facing due to the coronavirus outbreak. The Commission found the measures to be in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. In particular, (i) the measures can only be granted until the end of this year; (ii) the direct grants do not exceed €800,000 per company, as provided by the Temporary Framework; and (iii) the payment deferrals will be granted by 31 December 2020, and will be due by no later than 31 December 2021 and involve minimum remuneration, in line with the Temporary Framework.

The Commission therefore concluded that the measures are necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a member state, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. On this basis, the Commission approved the measures under EU state aid rules. More information on the Temporary Framework and other actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here.

The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.58299 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Facebook

Twitter

Trending