SABAM Charged With Copyright Fraud, Embezzlement, Money Laundering

Belgian music rights group SABAM has a serious headache looming. Following a complaint filed by an artist back in 2004, a judge began investigating the group's finances. His findings mean that SABAM will now face court accused of falsifying accounts to cover up bribe payments, abuse of trust, copyright fraud and embezzlement.

In 2004, a Belgian composer filed a complaint against local music rights group SABAM. Philippe Delhaye, an associate member of SABAM, claimed that there had been “breaches” in the correct payment of his royalties.

Delhaye’s complaint, which was backed up with witness statements from a former SABAM general manager and a former group auditor, triggered off interest in SABAM’s internal affairs.

Later that year Judge Frederic Lugentz began a fraud investigation which focused on SABAM’s non-profit association Caisse d’Entraide et de Solidarit√© (CES), a fund which SABAM claimed was to support older members over 60.

The investigation culminated in 2007 and resulted in 24 complaints against the group including embezzlement, money laundering and the falsification of accounts, the latter to allegedly cover up the payment of bribes to an official in the Ministry of Finance.

Although many charges were dropped due to Belgium’s statute of limitations, SABAM must now face Belgium’s criminal court on six charges.

Former SABAM President Jacques Leduc is one of the accused but former financial directors Marcel Raiglot and Jean Huysmans and current finance director Luc Van Oycke are being held accountable for corruption and forgery.

“We are pleased that the merits of the case will be heard by the criminal court,” says SABAM general manager Christophe Depreter. “I am fully confident that we can show that nothing wrong happened.”

A date has not yet been set for the court hearing.

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