September 15, 2019 / 10:36 AM / 2 months ago

Belgium's pick for EU Commission faces graft inquiry

FILE PHOTO: Belgian minister Didier Reynders visits Belgian soldiers deployed to the NATO enhanced Forward Presence battle group at Tapa military base, Estonia April 2, 2019. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgium’s candidate for the incoming European Commission, Foreign Minister Didier Reynders, faces a preliminary probe into accusations of money laundering in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Belgian authorities and two newspapers said.

The accusations were made by an ex-member of Belgium’s intelligence services, Brussels’s state prosecutor’s office said late on Saturday, declining to give more details. It was not available for further comment on Sunday.

First reported by Belgium’s L’Echo and De Tijd newspapers on Saturday, the investigation is at a very early stage but comes as Reynders bids to become EU justice commissioner, which is responsible for ensuring rule of law across the bloc.

Reynder’s office was not immediately available for comment.

Hearings at the European Parliament into the suitability of the next group of commissioners start on Sept. 30, with European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen seeking a strong mandate to challenges including climate change, better ties with Washington and a more assertive China.

Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Toby Chopra

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