Published On: Wed, Jul 8th, 2020

Patokh Chodiev Cleared By Belgian Parliamentary Inquiry

Patokh Chodiev, the Kazakh billionaire, has been cleared of allegations that he may have inappropriately obtained Belgian citizenship and influenced the introduction of a new plea bargain law.

Patokh Chodiev

A Parliamentary Inquiry Committee (PIC) into the “Kazakhgate” affair found that there had been no undue political influence exerted when Belgium extended its plea bargain (“transaction pénale”) law in 2011.

The PIC also found that the process of granting Belgian citizenship to Chodiev had been correctly followed and there were no grounds to revoke it.

The investigating committee was established in 2016 following media reports that the French Government had sought to influence Belgian lawmakers over the introduction of a law that would allow charges against Chodiev and his partners to be settled. The charges related to property deals done in Belgium by Chodiev and his partners in the 1990s.

The PIC found that while the Chodiev case was among the first to be settled using the new rules, resulting in a €21 million payment with no admission of guilt, the law had not been enacted for this purpose.

Instead, the PIC reported that discussions on extending the law had been going on since 2006 and were part of a lobbying campaign driven by the Antwerp diamond industry.

The allegations of French influence stem from claims made by an official in President Sarkozy’s administration that his team had instigated the change in the Belgian law.

But Claude Guéant, Sarkozy’s chief of staff, “categorically” denied any attempt by France to influence the Belgian legislature. He said that officials had only introduced Chodiev to a lawyer called Catherine Degoul, who the French thought might be able to help.

Degoul then put together a legal team to fight the case, including hiring a Belgian senator called Armand de Decker without Chodiev’s knowledge. Chodiev reportedly only found out about De Decker’s involvement from media reports years later.

De Decker was still working in the senate when he joined Degoul’s team and this was deemed a conflict of interest by the PIC. But the PIC also ruled that De Decker, who was operating without Chodiev’s approval, had not influenced the process of enacting the new law.

After the transaction pénale was enacted in April 2011, lawmakers decided to make minor amendments. It was decided that no cases should be settled until those amendments were in place, unless approved by the chief prosecutor.

Two cases were given permission to be settled before the amendments to the bill were made. One case involved a subsidiary of Société Générale and the other was the case against Chodiev and his partners.

According to prosecutors called to give evidence, the Chodiev case had dragged on for 15 years and it was unreasonable to continue given the time that had elapsed. Prosecutors were concerned they were in breach of EU human rights legislation. They were also unsure of their chances of bringing the case to court and felt that the opportunity to bring over €20 million into the Belgian treasury should not be missed.

Marc de le Court, the public prosecutor for the Court of Appeals, said: “This choice seemed to me to be the best response of the public prosecutor to the serious obstacles with which he was confronted: the expired time limit and the near-zero chance of ultimately obtaining a court conviction. In addition, with regard to the amount of the plea bargain, this measure seemed to me to be a powerful deterrent for the accused and an attractive gain for the public purse.”

The PIC agreed and found that the plea bargain had been correctly applied. The PIC report said: “In the case of Mr Chodiev et al, the public prosecutor’s office, in view of various factors such as the exceeding of the reasonable time limit and the risk of time barring, considered that tit was appropriate to use the plea bargain. The inquiry committee considers that the public prosecutor’s office thus made an appropriate choice that fell within its discretion.”

Pascal Vanderveeren, senior counsel to Mr Chodiev, said: “The Belgian Parliamentary Inquiry Commission (PIC) has completed its work and found that ERG’s shareholders were completely innocent of any wrongdoing.”

Author: Frederick Colley

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About the Author

- Writer and Co-Founder of The Global Dispatch, Brandon has been covering news, offering commentary for years, beginning professionally in 2003 on Crazed Fanboy before expanding into other blogs and sites. Appearing on several radio shows, Brandon has hosted Dispatch Radio, written his first novel (The Rise of the Templar) and completed the three years Global University program in Ministerial Studies to be a pastor. To Contact Brandon email [email protected] ATTN: BRANDON

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  1. […] The Belgian media ran hundreds of news stories attacking Chodiev based on leaks from Green and Socialist politicians but, when the matter was formally investigated, no wrongdoing was discovered and the businessman was exonerated. […]

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