The French press is full of praise for the appointment of Alexia Bertrand as Secretary of State for Budget and Consumer Affairs. She underlines the brilliant studies of this politician, who suddenly switched from the MR to the Open Vld. When power is the ultimate goal at the expense of the common good, the media servants have nothing else to emphasize than their studies or their smile… This new appointment is only further proof of the caste’s complete lack of interest in the people, a caste reduced to a headless chicken caught in an endless race for power.
The most attentive newspapers underline the intelligence of the maneuver. Bertrand was running for the position of Minister of Foreign Affairs and would have been shocked by the appointment of Hadja Lahbib to this position. She had indeed been from 2015 to 2019 the head of cabinet of the minister at the time, Didier Reynders and seemed cut out for this responsibility.
Some saw the war between Reyndersians and Michellians reigniting. Boucher having played a bad trick on the spiritual heiress of Reynders.
Who is Alexia Bertrand?
Now the real question is: who is really Alexia Bertrand? She is the daughter of Luc Bertrand, the Belgian billionaire who for many years headed Ackermans & van Haeren, the Antwerp-based multinational that oversees a number of companies including one of the world’s leading dredging companies, Deme.
But Deme was convicted in Switzerland of corruption in a huge contract with Nigeria. It had to pay back almost 35 million euros(1). The same company is being prosecuted in Belgium in connection with another corruption case revealed by the FBI in Russia. This is a sum of nearly 8 million euros paid to Russian officials in charge of awarding the contract for the dredging of the Northern Passage(2). Alexia Bertrand was the administrator of Ackermans during all these years.
The Belgian State (through the BMI, Belgian Investment Company) was also associated with the company Rent-a-port in an offshore company called Infra Asia Development Limited. Rent-a-port is a subsidiary of Ackermans & van Haeren. You read that right! The Belgian State has been a majority shareholder in an offshore company. The chairman of the BMI-SBI board of directors was Jean-Claude Fontinoy and one of the directors was Hans D’Hondt, the head of the Belgian tax office(3).
Fontinoy and Alexia Bertrand know each other very well as they worked together in Didier Reynders’ cabinet for years. Fontinoy was suspected of using a non-profit organization, Les plus beaux villages de Wallonie, as a laundering and corruption structure. One of the biggest donors was Ackermans & Van Haeren via its subsidiaries Deme and Rent-a-Port. An investigation is still in progress and has been for several years, with non-existent means of investigation.
To top it all off, the galaxy of companies linked to Ackermans & Van Haeren has a battery of subsidiaries in tax havens(4).
Finally, we would not be complete if we omitted to say that Alexia Bertrand’s husband is a real estate developer. Amand-Benoît D’Hondt works for Fortis Real Estate Asset Management. We therefore find him in the big files potentially concerning the Belgian State as owner or tenant.
How could the appointment of Alexia Bertand to the budget jeopardize the general interest in Belgium, knowing that this department is already calamitous? Because she obviously belongs to the « Reynders Clan », as described in Philippe Engels’ eponymous book. From then on, she will do everything to favour the interests of this Clan and the family company. Moreover, during two lean years she will have the best possible crowbar to influence Belgian politics: « Do as I say or I’ll melt your department’s budget. » And there is very little chance that she will be more interested in the general interest in the future than she has been in the past.
- Cfr L’Echo, « Deme condamné en Suisse pour corruption. » 02-06-2017.
- Cfr RTBF, »La justice belge poursuit le groupe belge de dragage Deme pour corruption en Russie. » 02-04-2021.
- Cfr 7sur7, »De l’argent public belge investi dans une structure offshore. », 08-11-2017.
- Cfr PTB, « Alexia Bertrand, ou le conflit d’intérêts élevé au rang d’art. »