Will the Boechout case become mayor Koen T’Sjien’s 2nd Reuzegom scandal?

Will the Boechout case become mayor Koen T’Sjien’s 2nd Reuzegom scandal?
Will the Boechout case become mayor Koen T’Sjien’s 2nd Reuzegom scandal?

In an article dated March 25, Walter De Smedt asked critical questions about decisions by (former) Flemish Minister of the Interior Bart Somers (Open VLD) about an investigation into possible corruption by Mayor Koen T’Sjien of Boechout. He expresses the same criticism here about the conduct of the judicial system and the legal profession of Antwerp in this case.

In the article Who protects Mayor Koen T’Sjien of Boechout? it was indicated how the former Flemish Minister of the Interior Bart Somers (Open VLD) and Antwerp provincial governor Cathy Berx (CD&V) avoided their responsibility in the case regarding the administrative actions of the mayor of Boechout, Koen T’Sijen.

It is now also becoming clear what the public prosecutor in Antwerp thinks about it. He wants to go to the council chamber of the court with a request for dismissal of prosecution. This chamber, which acts behind closed doors, does not decide on the merits of the case but only examines whether there are sufficient elements to refer the case to the criminal court.

Are those elements not there? Why is the file not allowed to come into public hearing?

The resistance of a resident of Boechout against the mayor’s mismanagement became a battle against the odds. He found no lawyer at the Antwerp bar willing to file a complaint. Difficult when colleagues from the same bar are involved, said one of the masters addressed.

Then just look for a lawyer from the Brussels bar. He had to report the involvement of colleagues to his chairman. The chairman did not consider it appropriate to use the recorded telephone conversation that provided evidence of the involvement.

According to the chairman, the use was a violation of privacy. The fact that the Court of Cassation did declare the use permissible in several judgments and left the assessment to the criminal court was left unread.

Ultimately, the resident took the initiative himself. He filed a complaint with the investigating judge personally and without the assistance of his lawyers, with appointment as a civil party.

That in itself gave rise to a conflict. The complainant first had to pay a deposit of 500 euros. Because it is not possible to pay with a bank card at the court, the nearby bank had to be visited.

Then take the cash again to the court registry. There, a clerk presented a form for signature. However, it contained a text with which the complainant could not agree.

It stated that the complainant had appeared before the investigating judge and that judge had drawn up a statement about it. However, that judge had not seen or heard the complainant.

The clerk said it was a remnant of the corona pandemic. To protect the investigating judge from “contamination”, the appearance before the judge was replaced by a fiction.

The fact that such fiction results in the nullity of the entire procedure and even constitutes a falsity was not taken into account. Lawyers who were waiting to file a complaint apparently didn’t notice either. Ultimately, the clerk decided that the lawyers could come to the judge and that the complainant could return the next day at eight o’clock.

What could be expected from the investigating judge? Given the detailed report from the Audit Flanders agency added to the investigation, little had to be investigated.

In that report, the evidence of the facts is supported by the e-mails between Mayor T’Sjien and two construction promoters, which are explained in detail. On this basis, the mayor was heard by the auditors of Audit Flanders.

Based on these elements, the Administrator General of Audit Flanders fulfilled his obligation imposed by the Code of Criminal Procedure to report criminal offenses to the anti-corruption service and subsequently also to the public prosecutor.

The investigating judge’s order to interrogate him was answered by Mayor T’Sjien with his right to remain silent. After all, a suspect is rightly permitted not to make a statement to the police or the investigating judge and also to remain silent before the criminal judge.

He must therefore bear the consequences. The same applies to the lawyers involved who cannot hide behind their professional secrecy because it does not serve to conceal their own suspicious actions.

How can you find an explanation for the opinion of the public prosecutor in Antwerp? There is no shortage of indications of possible criminal offences. That is sufficient for the District Court to decide to refer this case to the criminal court so that it can rule on it in a public and adversarial process, in which all parties can have their say about guilt and fine.

But a hearing in public court can have dire consequences for Mayor T’Sjien, regardless of the judgment of the criminal court. This threatens to make completely public what has until now been kept secret from the citizens of Boechout. Given the impending elections, that would not constitute positive advertising.

There is also another element that can encourage people not to initiate a public debate. Due to the involvement of two renowned Antwerp lawyers, several colleagues chose not to participate. Does the prosecutor also want to avoid that scandal?

This agoraphobia is reminiscent of another recent case, the Reuzegom affair and the conviction of whistleblower Acid. This also raises the idea of ​​class justice and the “us knows us” phenomenon in this case. Could that also play a role in this?

If you see and read what is written in many research reports by Audit Flanders about the policy in several other municipal authorities, the problem is much bigger than the single Boechouts file.

Both the flight from responsibility of the former Flemish Minister of Internal Policy Bart Somers, who perhaps saw the mood brewing and therefore resigned, and the agoraphobia of the Antwerp prosecutor point to a structural problem.

What is the purpose of an independent agency such as Audit Flanders if the findings from the forensic investigations carried out by this government institution are ignored or even thwarted by the responsible minister?

Why does an equally independent prosecutor have a fear of agoraphobia when it comes to politically sensitive files and does he flee the hearing through a public and adversarial procedure?

Doesn’t the resident of Boechout have the right to know what his mayor is doing? Doesn’t the Flemish voter have the right to know what is happening in several Flemish municipalities, and what higher authorities are doing to avoid having to follow up?

Why does all this have to remain a secret? Is that what is meant by open government and reducing the evil of corruption?

Who is to blame if the citizen turns away from politics during the elections and shows his dissatisfaction with the way the justice system works by voting for those who have not, not yet, been able to cooperate with this policy?

How do you maintain a democratic constitutional state in this way?


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The article is in Dutch

Tags: Boechout case mayor Koen TSjiens #2nd Reuzegom scandal


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