When Justice is no longer impartial

Since September 2020, on  the POUR.press website Christian Savestre analyzes a more than astonishing judicial saga. We discover that during the processing of the estate of a very rich notary, some members of the Justice have »  We have been distorting, cheating, lying, hiding, covering up, continuously for two decades. « Let’s try to summarize this very complex affair, known as the « Verbruggen Affair », of which all the details are developed by our colleague from POUR  in a series of 16 articles in vitriol.

Rocambolesque (1) is the best way to describe this saga that spans over 20 years. The following is a brief summary that will only highlight the most significant facts.

The very rich notary Robert Verbruggen died on April 22, 2002. His fortune, estimated at nearly 400 million, is to be divided among his heirs: 7 children and his wife. However, as Christian Savestre tells us,  » the heirs take their time to file the estate declaration. Indeed, it is only on December 27, 2002 that they file it with the tax authorities, almost 9 months after the death of the notary. And what does the tax authority learn? That the estate of the notary Robert Verbruggen amounts to… 117.000€. « .

However, the intra-family solidarity is not total and two of the brothers do not accept the mythical assembly and Luc Verbruggen files a criminal complaint on December 12, 2002, which will be the starting point of the « Verbruggen affair », still not closed in 2021.

If there are dissensions between the family members, the most important victim is the Brussels Region which, as a result of a false declaration, will not receive the very important inheritance tax that it would have been entitled to if the legality had been respected. And yet, the authorities remain strangely passive. Savestre wonders:  » You can imagine that this false declaration to the inheritance immediately attracted the attention of the Belgian administration and the ministerial political authorities that oversee it? Not at all. The Belgian state is under fire. So all Belgian citizens are and those who represent them do nothing for many years. It was only on April 29, 2008, six years after the death of the notary (and two and a half years after the death of his wife), that he came out of his lethargy by filing a civil suit…,  » joining the complaint of the son refusing to participate in the family omerta. But it will still be necessary to wait for concrete measures to be taken:  » The Belgian State will eventually wake up a little and will proceed, on August 8, 2012, to a conservatory seizure of €25 million on the estate of Robert Verbruggen (more than 10 years after his death!), then to a second one of €6.6 million on January 24, 2014 on the estate of his wife (a little less than 10 years after her death). But, to date in 2020, all this is only conservatory, pending a final judgment that has still not taken place, thus preventing any execution. Those who are dragged to court in a few months, for an unpaid traffic fine of 100€, will appreciate. »

Episode 6 of the saga breaks with the very discreet maneuvers in the shadows of hushed offices and the sleeve effects in dusty courtrooms to take us under the African sun. It is in Senegal that a strange accident occurs that causes the death of the companion of the investigating judge who was implicated in the Verbruggen Affair and whose unprofessional behavior has been highlighted in previous episodes. This investigating judge had, a short time before,  » not only put a premature end to her career as an examining magistrate at the Brussels Public Prosecutor’s Office, but she had divorced her husband of 32 years, a magistrate like her, to finally decide to leave for Senegal with Thierry where they acquired a house in joint ownership « . In addition to these strange facts, there are other adventures: « Playing of its quality of ex-investigating judge in Belgium, it obtains from the Prosecutor of Dakar a permit to carry weapon for Thierry. Joining the useful to the pleasant, Thierry engages in the sale of weapons offering multiple outlets, of which that of the Senegalese police force. « We leave behind the complex manipulations in the secrecy of dark offices by those whom Savestre calls  » the experts of the figure « , to enter straight into a novel of love and adventure: more OSS 117 enters the dance than Les exploits de Rocambole.

On January 27, 2011, a first instance judgment condemned the five heirs to 5 months of suspended prison (10 months had been requested), giving reason to the brother who did not want to play in the « inheritance plot ». It took 6 years after the closing of the investigation file before the Justice decided. However, this same Justice will find a way to be much faster and it is on September 18, 2012 that the Court of Appeal renders its verdict and concludes with a general acquittal of the 5 heirs, after having judged that the claims of the civil parties were without object. The Court of Cassation will very quickly confirm this judgment.

This first significant element was preceded and will be followed by many other astonishing facts. Impossible to develop them all here: Christian, Savestre did it in 16 very dense articles. Let us quote, in no particular order, the fraudulent maneuvers identified in his very thorough analysis of this malodorous file:

  •  » There are several family companies, one of which, called Fidelec, is located in Liechtenstein;
  • intervention of the organized gang of the Bar Presidents and ex-Bar Presidents;
  • an investigating judge coming to the rescue of a lawyer specialized in estate tax evasion caught red-handed, refusing his investigators the additional duties they requested;
  • magistrates who acquit the gang of five and the professionals of the law and of the figure while superbly ignoring (really?) the facts pointed out by the plaintiff Luc Verbruggen from the beginning and without interruption during nearly 20 years.

The more than dubious manoeuvres that have marked the judicial treatment of this case show that the professional Orders do not really control the actions of their members. The creation of independent bodies would be better able to avoid the drifts that have been so evident throughout this judicial saga.

So it took a lot of complicity to make this affair last 20 years. It must be said that among five siblings reluctant to pay proper inheritance tax, there is a notary, a company auditor and a businessman. It is a real network, here mainly in the great Catholic bourgeoisie of Brussels, which had to be set up to prevent the truth from coming out. But the little friendly arrangements are not free. Savestre ironizes: « The implausible story defended by the gang of five thanks to the screen set up by the professionals of the law and the figures that they have paid handsomely for so many years… No doubt thousands of euros added to the many millions (more than 10 probably) spent for a declared estate of 117.000€..  »

Our determined amateur detective does not mince his words: he mentions names, sometimes very high up in the hierarchies of their various orders: lawyers, barristers, examining magistrates, company auditors. He is particularly severe for the notary Dechamps and the lawyer Emmanuel de Wilde d’Estmaël, the « estate planner ». According to Savestre, this specialization among tax lawyers aims at creating arrangements that allow wealthy heirs to avoid inheritance taxes, which are an important source of financing for the Regions. It is therefore the community of citizens who are ultimately the victims of this kind of organized « robbery ».

Surprisingly, despite the very serious accusations, the people concerned do not react. Obviously, if the author of the inflammatory articles were sued for defamation, this would inevitably bring to the surface facts that some people have every interest in hiding. It should be noted that most of the media have helped to maintain this blanket of silence around the case and have not mentioned it since 2012.

But perhaps the truth can no longer be kept quiet. A 5th judicial expert has been appointed and he seems incorruptible: « The report of the expert, Mr. Emmanuel Sanzot, is implacable. Implacable, because of a rigor that does not allow the slightest escape to all those who have falsified, cheated, lied, hidden, covered up, without interruption for two decades. The facts, stubborn, finally jump out at them. There is no way out, except to make it disappear from the current proceedings. Even if it does, this small, ultra-powerful circle of friends and acquaintances, this report is now public and has already escaped its notice. It would further disqualify itself (if possible) if it resorted to such an extreme. It is true that these people have already made exhibits disappear in various places, including the Palace of Justice, and that they could well continue, say those who have read the episodes of the Verbruggen Affair. « The forensic expert lists some very serious accusations: « …all the accounts function almost exclusively thanks to the various operations (2)In principle, miscellaneous transactions are the exception. (…) The documents originally transmitted by the companies, the answers formulated by the directors of the companies in August 2019 and by the board of the companies in September 2019 were clearly deficient and insufficient. »

The last ditch effort of the gang of five and their associates is to say that these facts have already been judged and that one cannot go back on a judged case (even if it was conducted in a really unorthodox way?).

It seems that Mr. Sanzot’s report is now being read in some circles. The question is: if we finally manage to stop hiding the truth, won’t this cause a real earthquake in the Brussels judicial environment? The inheritance tax avoidance scheme of the notary Verbruggen involves so many important people in the judicial world of the capital; is it too big to fail, too enormous to be brought to light?

Notes et références
  1. Rocambole est un personnage central dans la célèbre série des feuilletons écrits par Ponson du Terrail vers le milieu du XIXe siècle. Les aventures de Rocambole étant tellement extravagantes, pleines de péripéties extraordinaires son nom a servi de base à l’adjectif rocambolesque, qui veut donc dire invraisemblable. Il est à noter qu’un roman-feuilleton bien connu de Ponson du Terrail, L’héritage mystérieux, raconte l’histoire de demi-frères qui se disputent un héritage durant de décennies : https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/L%27H%C3%A9ritage_myst%C3%A9rieux .
  2. Le journal comptable des opérations diverses enregistre les opérations comptables qui ne concernent ni les achats, ni les ventes, ni les opérations de banque et de caisse. Il permet d’enregistrer notamment les écritures rectificatrices de différentes erreurs de saisie, d’imputation qui auraient pu être commises. Elles rendent la lecture des comptes extrêmement opaques.
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