Recently, the Inquiry Commission of the Belgian Parliament regarding the extension of the criminal transaction in 2011 summoned Jan Jambon, an MP from the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), who was questioned on several issues considered relevant for the investigation.
Mr. Jambon declared, among other things, that in the early 2011 there was no pressure from the diamond traders to push for the extension of the criminal transaction. His statement is questionable, to say the least, considering that he was the President of the Diamond Club, a group of Flemish MPs aiming to protect the interests of the diamond traders. (See here for more details: http://www.opensourceinvestigations.com)
However, nobody in the Inquiry Commission asked Mr. Jambon about the Diamond Club. Not a single question.
The same is true regarding Servais Verherstraeten, the Flemish Christian-Democrat (CD&V) MP, who was also summoned by the Commission, and who was Vice-President of the Diamond Club. Nobody asked him about the Diamond Club. Not a single question.
It’s as if the Commission is deliberately trying to avoid investigating the fact that the Belgian Parliament transformed itself into an organization lobbying and making laws for the diamond traders in Antwerp.
Like a Belgian journalist recently said, we will probably need in the future a Commission to investigate this Inquiry Commission – and its attempt to obscure the fact that the Belgian Parliament no longer represents the Belgian people, but the diamond traders.
In the meantime, since Mr. Verherstraeten claimed he forgot certain details, let us help him improve his memory.
How CD&V pushed for the extension of the criminal transaction
On 2 December 2010, a number of Belgian MPs founded “The Diamond Club” (“Diamantclub” in Dutch), an informal and secretive group aimed to offer parliamentarian support to the diamond traders in Antwerp. The president of the Club was Jan Jambon (N-VA), and the vice-presidents were Willem-Frederik Schiltz (Open VLD) and Servais Verherstraeten (CD&V). All the Flemish MPs were invited to join the club. “We want to unite in the “Diamantclub” all the politicians who defend the values and the interests of the diamond trade,” the invitation said.
The pressure was high, since the revelations regarding the HSBC leaks were threatening to put behind bars a number of important diamond traders. (See here for more details: http://www.opensourceinvestigations.com)
Therefore, on 13 December 2010, Servais Verherstraeten, together with two other CD&V MPs, Sonja Becq and Raf Terwingen, drafted a law proposal aiming to expand the scope of the criminal transaction.
The proposal begins like this: “In Article 216bis, § 1, of the Code of Criminal Procedure, as last amended by the Law of 10 April 2003, the following changes are made:
(1) paragraph 1 is replaced by the following:
“Where the King’s prosecutor considers that a fine or a fine which may be corrected by application of Articles 1 and 2 of the Act of 4 October 1867 on mitigating circumstances requires a fine or a fine with confiscation, he may invite the suspect to pay a specified sum of money to the Federal Public Service Finance.””
Does it sound familiar? Yes, because it is the same proposal that was introduced on 2 March 2011 as Amendment 18 to the Law on Miscellaneous Provisions. See for yourself. The draft is here (page 20): http://www.dekamer.be,
and the Amendment 18, here (page 18): http://www.lachambre.be.
The draft was introduced as a law proposal to the Belgian Chamber of Representatives on 24 February 2011. However, a few days later, on 2 March 2011, it was transformed into Amendment 18 to the Law on Miscellaneous Provisions.
Why? Because, in the meantime, the Flemish Christian-Democrats have secured the support of the Socialists (PS) on the extension of the criminal transaction. This is why the Amendment 18, although identical with the proposal drafted by Servais Verherstraeten, Sonja Becq and Raf Terwingen, was signed by MPs from all the political parties forming the majority back then.
Yet it is important to remember that the Amendment 18 was originally drafted on 13 December 2010, by Servais Verherstraeten and his colleagues, in the heat of the HSBC scandal threatening the diamond traders in Antwerp. This proves beyond doubt that the extension of the criminal transaction was a CD&V affair, supported by the Diamond Club in the Belgian Parliament.