He had to watch out for other people’s money, but especially to watch out for his own. A prominent former Belgian politician and former EU accountant, Karel Benckstein, has stolen tons from European taxpayers, and is now paying for them with a huge retirement discount.
Of all the years of the pension he has earned at the European Court of Auditors, twelve in total, he must surrender two-thirds, the European judge said this morning. Pinkstein, who was formerly Mayor of Overbilt and Secretary of Agriculture and Defense, took great interest. no less than 332 “important trips” unrelated to his work, five fishing trips in France and Belgium with dinner and a hotel he referred to as “European days”, a visit to a vineyard in Burgundy he was thinking of buying, vacations with his wife in Switzerland and Cuba, And all at the expense of the European taxpayer.
And after that, there were also unauthorized absences, double insurance fraud, and prohibited secondary activities: contrary to all rules, he ran a real estate company alongside his work and was politically active, advertising trips to the Court of Accounts. In addition, he tried to rent a private apartment to the then head of foreign affairs of the European Union Mogherini, whose diplomatic service was under his financial control. Sources in Brussels together speak of the ‘biggest fraud case since Edith Cresson’, the former French Prime Minister and European Commissioner who, by her favouritism, led to the downfall of the Santer Commission in 1999. The fraud prevention service Olaf estimates the damages at more than 570,000 euros.
It is incomprehensible that Pinxten was arrested only after twelve years, and then also by informants who necessarily wanted to blow up his third term. Take the scam secured. Pinxten is claiming damages for a collision between his chauffeur-driven service car and one of his son’s private cars. It is a pity that the driver did not know anything about her.
The same is true for the second claim. The driver had run over a suitcase from his boss containing a bottle of wine and two suits. Only, again, according to the driver, there was absolutely no damage. In addition to the chauffeur-driven service car, Pinxten also had two fuel cards for his own cars. Subsequently, it was noticeable that these two cars, both diesels, sometimes at only a few intervals, were filled with diesel and gasoline, while the Pinxten did not have a gasoline car at all.
Pinxten rarely used his own fleet of vehicles, because at weddings, parties and side functions, the official car “only” drove. With a net 17,000 per month, you have to pay attention to the little ones.
Even with his holidays, he wasn’t shy about taking risks. Take one in Switzerland. The organization that organized an outing for its board did not even invite him, but Pinxten arranged it himself, through a friendly Belgian minister. And while there were only walks, shopping, and dinners and not a single working session or discussion, Pinxten sold the meeting to his boss as closely related to the court of auditors.
Dan Cuba: At first his secretary searched for tourist destinations for two weeks, then decided to make it an important trip and told the head of the Audit Bureau that he was going to visit the United Nations projects and meet with civil society. In the end, Pinxten only spoke with the EU ambassador and one staff member, the rest of the time – 12 out of 14 days – he traveled with his wife. He wrote in his mission report that he “managed to meet some very interesting and knowledgeable people”.
One of the things that weighs on the Court is that Pinxten, as a European Controller, had an exemplary role and that his tampering had seriously damaged the image of the Court of Auditors and indeed the entire Union. The court describes the punishment as strong, but is not afraid to “fall without any means of subsistence.” Of the fraud amount of 570,000 that Olaf calculated, he holds the majority anyway, because the SAI only recovers a little over 153,000. “Of course this is unsatisfactory, but this part is 100% legally certain, and we wanted to prevent it,” said spokesman Vincent Burgess. from escaping at any cost. Pinxten now faces two other cases: his appeal against this partial recovery, which he will appeal after today, and a criminal case for insurance fraud.
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