Noose tightens around neck of Belgacom president

  • The president of Belgacom has a consulting contract with Huawei
  • The auditing committee will begin investigating this Thursday
  • The illegality of the situation seems egregious

Who, since 2010, has been a strategic consultant for the Huawei network equipment supplier – one of Belgacom’s largest providers? Easy! It’s simply the interim president of the board of directors for the public company, Michel Moll. This information, revealed by De Morgen, is a new development in the soap opera that since Monday has pulled the public company and Didier Bellens, its CEO, into its vortex. The latter could find himself in deep trouble if evidence is brought forward that he was aware of this outlandish case of double-dipping.

Interim president of Belgacom for the past eighteen months, Moll has acknowledged that he was consulting for the Chinese giant, but he denied any conflict of interest in any sales activity with Huawei. “I only gave them strategic advice but not for Europe, nor Belgium,” he stated to the Flemish daily. “My employment has nothing to do with espionage”. Moll, who sides with the Reformist Movement (MR), has been a manager with Belgacom since 2004. He’s very close to the CEO, Didier Bellens. His term ended on December 2012, and it will not be renewed. Several days ago, the MR presidency suggested that the government replace him with Laurent Levaux, manager of Aviapartner and vice-president of the Walloon business union.

The minister of public companies, Jean-Pascal Labille (PS), could not easily remain a simple observer. He requested that the Belgacom government commissioner urgently summoned an auditing committee that will come together this morning. It must determine if the Belgacom managers had been informed of this strategic consulting position for one of the operator’s largest suppliers. It will also make sure that no issue concerning Huawei was mentioned by the board of directors in Michel Moll’s presence and to verify that his work as a consultant did not breach any legal provisions.

The 1991 legislation regarding public companies is crystal clear. It specifies that no Belgacom manager can exercise any duties for any telecommunication service company. Huawei obviously falls into that category. It supplies network equipment not only to Belgacom, but also to Mobistar. The law further stipulates that a manager has one week to resign if he finds himself in such a situation. If he fails to do so, he will automatically be dismissed.

So what of all his actions as the president of the board of directors? It’s a ticking time bomb, which could also blow up under Didier Bellens, the CEO of Belgacom. One source, who is perfectly familiar with the company’s ins and outs, assures Le Soir that he heard Didier Bellens and Michel Moll discussing Moll’s strategic consultancy assignment for Huawei. He also states that he’s ready to take the witness stand if requested.

ALAIN JENNOTT

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