How To Ruin An Inquiry Commission: The Case Of Georges Gilkinet

Georges Gilkinet, the Belgian MP from the Green Party (Ecolo) and the “star” of the so-called Kazakhgate com­mis­sion, is a man of unpalat­able con­vic­tions. In late 2009, for instance, he draft­ed a law that would have forced the banks to pub­lish each year the names of their clients. He didn’t care that such a law, if vot­ed, would have infringed upon the right to pri­va­cy. In his view, an infringe­ment upon the right to pri­va­cy is accept­able in case of an impe­ri­ous social need.

In March 2010, he stat­ed that an attempt not to push hard against those who may have com­mit­ted fraud amounts to “intel­lec­tu­al terrorism.”

So, who is Gilkinet, and why is he act­ing like that?

A history of double standards

Let’s take the case of the so-called Kazakhgate com­mis­sion. Gilkinet was a loud and fer­vent sup­port­er of the commission’s cre­ation. He was one of the four MPs who draft­ed the law pro­pos­al that led to the estab­lish­ment of the com­mis­sion. Everything he said, every­thing he wrote gave a strong impres­sion that he is a man total­ly devot­ed to the idea of find­ing the whole truth regard­ing the exten­sion of the crim­i­nal set­tle­ment by the Belgian Parliament in April 2011.

However, today we have a large col­lec­tion of facts that con­tra­dicts this impres­sion. Gilkinet may be pas­sion­ate, yet his pas­sion is not the truth.

Gilkinet has admit­ted that he has a strong inter­est in the so-called Trio formed by Patokh Chodiev, Alijan Ibragimov and Alexander Mashkevich. According to him, the Trio has enough pow­er to cor­rupt all the three branch­es of the Belgian gov­ern­ment. In his own words, “this is the rea­son why I asked for an inquiry com­mis­sion, and I got it.”

Gilkinte’s ten­den­cy to imme­di­ate­ly assume the Trio’s guilt because of their wealth has been obvi­ous through­out his actions and his state­ments. All one has to do to note his bias is to vis­it his Twitter page.

Gilkinet was very active and aggres­sive when it came to inves­ti­gat­ing those who might have proved his the­o­ry. Starting with the first com­mis­sion hear­ing on 11 January 2017, he has been extreme­ly vocal when it came to mat­ters relat­ed to Chodiev.

He even boast­ed that he “helped the press to play its role,” almost incrim­i­nat­ing him­self as the per­son who leaked clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion to the press in order to make Chodiev look bad. It is worth men­tion­ing that, right now, Gilkinet is under inves­ti­ga­tion for sus­pi­cion of dis­clos­ing clas­si­fied mate­r­i­al. If found guilty of uneth­i­cal behav­ior, the entire inquiry com­mis­sion risks being disqualified.

On the oth­er hand, when the com­mis­sion began inves­ti­gat­ing the dia­mond lob­by and its role in the exten­sion of the crim­i­nal set­tle­ment, Gilkinet became total­ly dis­in­ter­est­ed in the inves­ti­ga­tion. He even com­plete­ly skipped some parts of the hearings.

Take a look at Gilkinet’s web­site: You will find absolute­ly no press release, no com­ment, no noth­ing regard­ing the dia­mond lobby’s role in extend­ing the scope of the crim­i­nal set­tle­ment. Instead, you will find plen­ty of press releas­es try­ing to prove that Chodiev is the real culprit.

Or take a look, if you want more proof, on the inquiry commission’s hear­ings from 8 June 2017. Gilkinet was quite aggres­sive when inter­ro­gat­ing those who, in his view, might prove Chodiev’s guilt. Yet when Ari Epstein, the CEO Antwerp World Diamond Center (AWDC), was heard, Gilkinet was far less aggressive.

Everything points to the fact that Georges Gilkinet has his own agen­da, and that his agen­da has noth­ing to do with find­ing the truth.

He was not impressed by the huge amount of evi­dence that proves their involve­ment in chang­ing the Belgian law regard­ing crim­i­nal set­tle­ments. He was not out­raged to dis­cov­er that the dia­mond traders have enough pow­er to run Belgium and to turn the Belgian Parliament into a mock­ery. He was not inflamed when the rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the dia­mond traders, from the for­mer General Prosecutor Yves Liegeois to the lawyers Raf Verstraeten and Axel Haelterman, lied to the com­mis­sion. He nev­er pushed for fur­ther investigations.

No, he was com­plete­ly dis­in­ter­est­ed in all this. He may attack “les dia­man­taires” on var­i­ous occa­sions, but when it comes to real­ly inves­ti­gat­ing them, he sim­ply looks the oth­er way.

A quest for power and votes

The so-called Kazakhgate com­mis­sion was cre­at­ed at the request of two French-speak­ing oppo­si­tion par­ties: the Greens (Ecolo), and the Left-Liberals (DéFI). Both these par­ties pushed hard for the estab­lish­ment of this com­mis­sion – for polit­i­cal reasons.

Ecolo need­ed this com­mis­sion to get the cen­ter stage and win polit­i­cal points against its oppo­nents: the Right-Liberals (Reformist Movement – MR), the Socialists (PS), and, most impor­tant­ly, the Communists (PTB-Go).

The sto­ry of Kazakhgate, as it was cir­cu­lat­ed in the media, was per­fect for Ecolo and Gilkinet. If true, it would have allowed them to put MR into a cor­ner, since two of the most impor­tant Belgian polit­i­cal fig­ures in this sto­ry – Didier Reynders and Armand De Decker – are top MR politicians.

We have Kazakhgate instead of Diamondgate sim­ply because Ecolo and DéFI are French-speak­ing polit­i­cal par­ties with region­al inter­ests only. Diamonds are a Flemish affair that doesn’t bring them votes.

The fact that the enlarged trans­ac­tion was draft­ed, intro­duced in the Belgian Parliament and vot­ed by the lob­by of the dia­mond traders in Antwerp moves the entire affair on Flemish ter­ri­to­ry. Therefore, it makes it polit­i­cal­ly irrel­e­vant for the French-speak­ing electorate.

This is why Ecolo and espe­cial­ly his MP, Georges Gilkinet (the vice-pres­i­dent of the com­mis­sion), are try­ing hard to obscure the truth and to cre­ate “alter­na­tive facts.” Gilkinet basi­cal­ly turned him­self into a fake news machine regard­ing Kazakhgate. His Twitter page is full of strange, inco­her­ent and utter­ly impos­si­ble facts and dec­la­ra­tions as if he’s des­per­ate­ly try­ing to cre­ate a par­al­lel uni­verse where all the unsub­stan­ti­at­ed con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries that he pro­duces might some­how be true.

Dexia commission all over again?

Gilkinet was also a mem­ber, and a very vocal one, in the spe­cial com­mis­sion on the dis­man­tling of the Dexia Group, back in 2011–2012. His per­for­mance was so uneth­i­cal – he was leak­ing infor­ma­tion to the press – that he was almost exclud­ed from the com­mis­sion. In the end, the major­i­ty opt­ed not to exclude him, but to sanc­tion him: Gilkinet lost all his func­tions in the commission’s bureau, as well as his func­tion as Rapporteur.

Stunts like this one made Gilkinet rather famous, but his par­ty paid a heavy price. In the 2014 Belgian fed­er­al elec­tions, Ecolo dropped to 3.3% (from 4.8% in 2010). The par­ty lost 2 seats in the Chamber of Representatives – from 8 in 2010, to 6 in 2014.

There is every chance that Gilkinet’s per­for­mance in the Kazakhgate com­mis­sion will have the same effect on Ecolo in the next elections.

How To Ruin An Inquiry Commission: The Case Of Georges Gilkinet

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