A powerful and influential bank has changed the Belgian law in order to avoid a huge scandal and possible bankruptcy, according to recent reports. The Belgian Parliament voted in favour of a law which amended the Code of Criminal Procedure on 14 April 2011. This law made it possible to enter into transactions with the Public Prosecutor to “terminate the public prosecution of offences at all the stages of a criminal procedure” as of 16 May 2011.
After the transaction had begun and was executed with the Public Prosecutor, all criminal proceedings would then be terminated. Due to the payment that was made under the transaction not being a penalty, the transaction would therefore not appear in the judicial register. This means that the offender would be cleared of all charges, leaving with a clean record.
According to reports, the former French President Nicolas Sarkozy and former Belgian Vice Prime Minister Didier Reynders had fought hard to amend the Belgian Code of Criminal Procedure to help Société Générale to stay clean. Together with this, a powerful PR campaign allowed French colossus Société Générale to keep out of the public eye, whilst framing the scandal in a way that puts the leader of the legal change on to Patokh Chodiev. Reports state that he was seen as the perfect scapegoat as he is “rich and aloof”. The Belgian media claimed that Chodiev, a London-based Uzbek oligarch with Belgian citizenship, changed the Belgian criminal law as he was the first to benefit from the changes. Although through further investigation, it has become clear that Société Générale was intently interested in the law change, and was the first beneficiary of the change.
The first transaction took place in Anvers on 10 June 2011, and was between the Public Prosecutor and Société Générale. The French bank was under criminal investigation following allegations of fraud. Société Générale was coordinating at least 20 Belgian companies in a fraudulent scheme involving money laundering and other fiscal frauds, according to the prosecutors. The bank then entered into a transaction with the Public Prosecutor and got away with the crime after paying €40 million.
The media, including La Libre Belgique, claimed that this transaction came after the Chodiev transaction, known as Kazakhgate. However, Koen Geens, the Belgian Minister of Justice, stated that Société Générale had entered into a transaction with the Public Prosecutor one week earlier than the Chodiev transaction, proving that Société Générale would actually have been the first to benefit from the new law. Despite there being public proof of this, the initial information was never disseminated by the media, suggesting that Société Générale used its influence to keep itself away from the public eye.