The week in brief: 2 March
Compensation for accused terrorist, Omega Diamonds cleared, taxi drivers protest and fast food chain charged with human trafficking
An overview of the week's news
Omega Diamonds has been found not guilty by a court in Antwerp in a case brought by customs authorities claiming the business had avoided taxes over the years by importing diamonds on the basis of false invoices. The court ruled that the Belgian customs law could not be enforced because it conflicts with EU law. The case against the company and 11 individuals was thrown out, and with it the claim for €4.6 billion in fines.
Brussels taxi drivers boycotted the presentation of the region’s new taxi plan by mobility minister Pascal Smet and, as Flanders Today went to press, vowed to go ahead with a demonstration on 3 March. The sector is angry that the plan involves creating a new legal framework that would allow alternative services such as Uber to operate, something they consider to be unfair competition.
Male victims of domestic violence can now turn to the country’s first-ever shelter specifically for them, opened at an undisclosed location in the Mechelen area, according to the Centre for General Welfare Work. Last year, one in 10 women was the victim of domestic violence, the centre said, while the figure for men was one in 20. Cases usually involve violence at the hands of other family members, often in-laws.
Belgian fast food restaurant chain Quick has been sent for trial in Brussels on charges of human trafficking. The chain (pictured above) is accused of employing cleaning staff brought into Belgium without the necessary papers. The practice is common across the country, the social inspection services allege. The case will be the first of its kind in Belgium.
Rail authority NMBS is looking at ways to improve its mobile internet signal on some trains, according to federal mobility minister Jacqueline Galant. At present, ordinary signals are poorly received because of the trains’ construction and because railway lines are often remote from mobile internet masts. Two possibilities are being studied: the installation of repeaters on rolling stock, which boost the signal, and the provision of NMBS wi-fi. The two technologies will be tested before a decision is made, Galant said.
The Antwerp non-profit Moeders voor Moeders has announced that it received a foundling, delivered to the special hatch it maintains in the Borgerhout district of the city, in December. The hatch allows a baby to be abandoned safely. Jules, the latest arrival, is the seventh baby to be left in the hatch since it became available in 2000. A family member has six months to reclaim a baby left in the hatch – something that has only happened in one case to date.
The campaign to save the name of Cara Pils (Offside, last week) has been won, with Colruyt, the supermarket chain that markets the beer, deciding to cancel a proposed name-change to Everyday. A spokesperson for the company said they were “surprised at the concerns” of the public and “moved by so much love”. A petition to save the name was signed by more than 3,000 people. “We’re keeping our old name,” the company said. “Cara Pils remains Cara Pils – promise!”
The EU Commission has given Liberty Global, owners of Telenet, permission to proceed with plans to take a controlling interest in De Vijver, the company that owns TV channels Vier and Vijf. The EU said it had received assurances that the stations will not restrict their channels when being distributed by companies other than Telenet.
Flemish sports minister Philippe Muyters has proposed a new name for the regional sports administration Bloso. Sport Vlaanderen, he said, would more readily identify the organisation and sounds more Flemish. The original name is an acronym of the agency that promotes physical development and sport.
Staff at supermarket chain Delhaize have given their backing to an agreement reached two weeks ago on the company’s restructuring plan. The amended plan sees a reduced number of job losses, voluntary redundancies and bridging pensions from the age of 55. It also reduces the number of store closures.
The flight of more and more families from Brussels to the municipalities in the Vlaamse rand, or periphery around Brussels, is increasing the level of wealth in the province of Flemish Brabant, according to the province’s social planning office. Some 30,000 people made the move between 2008 and 2012, mainly young educated couples, an increasing number of whom are of foreign origin. More people live in Flemish Brabant and work in Brussels (380,000) than live and work in Brussels (230,000).
Not a single bank has so far been willing to take part in financing a new national football stadium, according to financial daily De Tijd. The banks are demanding strict guarantees, which the developers are unable to provide. The Brussels-Capital Region is being asked to guarantee the investment but has already pledged that no public money would be involved in the €300 million project.