Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Belgium’s EU candidate Didier Reynders denies corruption allegations


Didier Reynders, Belgium’s pick for EU justice commissioner, denied on Wednesday corruption allegations against him and said he would continue to seek the post because he had not been charged.

At a confirmation hearing, Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders told the European Parliament that money-laundering allegations made by a former Belgian spy were “malicious” and were aimed at damaging his reputation.

“On Saturday, September 14, I learned that serious accusations had been made against me by a person who was deliberately trying to damage my reputation,” he told EU lawmakers, denying the allegations.

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“All of us unfortunately can be at risk of such malicious allegations,” he said.

Reynders, one of the proposed members of the EU’s executive Commission that will take office on Nov. 1, faces accusations that he took illicit payments linked to business deals in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kazakhstan and Libya.

Those allegations were made by former intelligence agent Nicolas Ullens in April.

A Brussels prosecutor on Friday shelved the inquiry, citing a lack of evidence.

But Ullens filed a new legal complaint on Monday, seen by Reuters, that accused Reynders of covering up a Belgian intelligence investigation into the allegations.

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Asked by one EU lawmaker if he had considered stepping aside while a new legal examination took its course, Reynders said: “There is no charge and so I don’t have any intention to take a pause or organize a resignation.”

Monday’s legal complaint is based on copies of 18 intelligence service reports between 2009 and 2015 that accuse Didier Reynders and several other government officials of money laundering, Ullens told Reuters on Monday.

A spokesman for Didier Reynders told Reuters on Tuesday the veteran politician considered the first case closed and referred questions on the second to Reynders’ lawyer, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“The same people will try again and maybe again and again and I will have the same reaction with my lawyer,” Reynders told EU lawmakers at the hearing.

European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen is seeking a strong mandate to deal with challenges ranging from populist, anti-EU politicians inside the European Union as well as climate change and a more assertive China.

Von der Leyen has said there should be “no room for doubt” about the standing of her commissioners.

The justice commissioner will play an important role seeking to uphold the rule of law, particularly in Poland and Hungary, where the bloc has been unable to slow what it sees as a slide away from democracy.

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