Guy Verhofstadt and ALDE are tolerating a Moldovan mobster banker in order to prevent a Grexit and push TTIP

Guy Verhofstadt, Leader of the liberal fraction in the European parliament (ALDE) receives an addittional salary of €190.000 for his work for two Belgian billionaires who areager to drill for shale gas in the Ukraine. For this reason the country is fast-tracked into the EU, along with all nations between the prospect member and the current member states. In doing so the EU makes no bones of dealing with corrupt politicians and mobsters, and at times even goes as far as subsidizing them directly.

By dint of the TTIP treaty the newly enlarged EU will have uniform environmental rules, the same as in the US, that will allow for fracking. In part one of this series (as of yet unavailable in English) we already met a Moldovan mobster banker laundering money through the Netherlands. In part two we took a closer look at TTIP and the various chicanes the Dutch liberal fractions in the EP took in favour and against fracking.

Mr. Verhofstadt’s reaction to a possible Grexit was all over the web and screens across Europe. Ranting and raving against the Greek president, Tspiras, he accused the mediterranean nation of never even having presented a serious attempt at reform. Why the drama, Guy? There are plenty of opponents of a Grexit in the EP, but none quite so vociferous as Verhofstadt, but then again, none have quite the financial stakes in the game as Verhofstadt.

In part one we already concluded that losing Greece wouldn’t be that much of a disaster. After all, Greece only makes up about 2% of the European economy and, together with Greece, lies out of the continguous European block. Also, eight years of reforms and austerity have little to show for in terms of results. But whilst the talks on a Grexit continue, the Dutch government opened the door for Moldova (2) and the Ukraine, all part of a strategy to eventually draw the whole of the Balkans into the fold: quite a contrary movement to a possible Grexit, and it makes little sense to admit states that are in even worse shape than the Greeks while preparing for a Grexit. Varoufakis knew he could play hardball when confronted with the burning desire of the EU to expand.

So what’s in it for „us”? Shale gas. Especially the eastern part of the Ukraine is rich in the precious resource, too bad it just happens to be in the area where there’s a war going on. By extracting the gas via fracking, liquifying it by cooling and transporting it in tankers from the Crimean peninsula Europe could have a nice and dandy source of energy - but it would help if both the Peninsula and the Bosporus were part of the EU.

Two European companies are eager to play the lead role in the exploitation. Nr. 1 is Exmar, a Belgian shipping company with one of the largest fleets of Liquid Natural Gas tankers in the world. The second one is Suez, but we’ll get to that in a moment. Exmar is owned by the Saverys family, no.7 on the Belgian rich list, worth about €1 billion. Family patriarch Nicolas is on the list of directors, as are his two daughters. On the list of non-executive directors is a familiar name: Guy Verhofstadt, annual renumeration €60.000.

The chairman of the board is Philippe baron Bodson. In his previous capacity he served as the head honcho at energy giant Suez, later merged with the Belgian company Tractebel. The latter company is eager to start fracking in the Ukraine as well, stating its intentions clearly on the company website. The Suez-Tractebel combination is largely the brain child of another notorious Belgian, the former EU commissioner (industry & energy) Etiènne Davignon.

The French company had spurious dealings with the Belgian government in the past; in 2011, they asked the government for the guarantee of a „stable judicial and fiscal framework”, bypassing the parliament. The prime minister however promised to do his best, although not without compensation. The letter in which he stated his commitment and demand to the board of Suez, leaked to newspaper Le Soir was signed Guy Verhofstadt. And the chairman of the board of directors? Davignon.

Another company with a big stake in Suez is the invest company Sofina, owned by the Boël family, another dynasty of Belgian plutocrats, worth twice as much as the Saverys family. The non-executive board of Suez reads like a who’s who of prominent Belgian industrialists, and again Guy Verhofstadt managed to find his way in, making twice as much as at Exmar, €130.000 a year. So whenever you hear Verhofstadt beating the drum for more Europe, more federalism and more power to Bruxelles (especially when it comes to fracking rights), remember that he is in the pay of the wealthiest families of the Kingdom, for a total of €190.000 that have all kinds of reasons to want fracking rights in prospective member states.

Davignon is quite the character by the way. He used to be the chief of the Generale Maatschappij, the company founded by the Belgian king in the 19th century to industrialise the newly minted state. GM used to control over half of the Belgian economy, running the biggest insurers and the biggest bank, the Generale Bank (later renamed Fortis).

What’s more, Davignon chairs the Bilderberg Conference, and it was his idea to invite Christine Lagarde to the party to talk about Greece. Before labeling this is conspiratist claptrap bear in mind that Davignon is totally open about these activities. In short, since the early 90’s, Davignon is the dual king of Belgian business, together with Albert Frère, the richest man in the country.

Davignon gets along well with Verhofstadt, pictured here together shooting the bull with archeuropean Jacques Delors, chairman of the commission for nine years and architect of the treaty of Maastricht that led to the adoption of the Euro. In addition to his business positions Davignon heads the think tank Friends of Europe that aims to promote the EU amongst the citizens of the members states. Members include all previous NATO-SG’s, such as our countryman Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. As an aside, in the list of funders we find Spiros Latsis, the richest man in Greece and owner of the Eurobank, a key instrument in the tax evasion schemes of the rich Greeks.

At the peak of the crisis his bank received €5.3 billion in bailout funds from Bruxelles - no doubt helped by his friendship with Barroso. His son, Paris Latsis, just sold his bailout-money funded mansion in Beverly Hills for the paltry sum of €15 mio. Prominent Friend of Europe is Marietje Schaake (D66/ALDE), leading light in the pro-TTIP faction of the European Parliament. Unsurprisingly Verhofstadt is an OG in the gang of Europhiles. Oh, and Latsis? He’s also the largest stakeholder in Hellenic Petroleum, the biggest energy company of Greece, and Greeks being the seafaring Greeks, also the owner of CMM Shipping, a company specialized in LNG shipping, conveniently close to the fracking fields of the Ukraine.

Because Latsis shifts his personal holdings from Greece to Switserland if running a loss and vice versa if he is turning a profit - remember, shipping is not taxed in Greece - Latsis avoids paying tax at all, but can file for loss compensation in Greece, in addition to the generous bailouts of his bank. Maybe Schaake and Verhofstadt should bring that up during the next drinks session at FOE. This maze of Belgian cronyism serves as a nice backdrop to Verhofstadts emotional outburst in parliament, and can also explain several conspicuous turns in his politics.

Take his stance on Lybia, for instance. He was „sick and tired” - again such an emotional outburst - of the dissolute and stance of Europe against the bloody repression of the Khadaffi regime of his population, risen up in the Arab Spring. Inspired by the relative success of the uprising against Ben Ali in Tunesia Verhofstadt expressed his desire for further integration and a more strident foreign policy, speaking in official capacity as ALDE chairman.

Months earlier Verhofstadt was the first head of government that received Khadaffi with full military honours.
Herman van Rompuy - also a member of FOE, erstwhile prime minister of Belgium and made man in Bruxelles - does exactly the same. One day he’s your friend, the other day your worst enemy, as long as the EU grows.

One day he pleaded for an intervention in the Arab Spring, but a year ago he was still smiling with Khadaffi on the pictures. We could go on and on. Lets sum it up with a nice group photo of Verhofstadt and the Belgian plutocrats. Just one more thing.

Verhofstadt took an illegal gift when he was still in office from Suez, probably a financial one, but the full figures aren’t known. In 2007 he tried to be the intermediary between Suez en Gazprom, steering towards a merger, openly working with Putin. Politicians shouldn’t be embroiled too much with the dealings of multinationals, but energy is about politics as much as anything else.

Verhofstadts intentions were clear: a close connection to Gazprom and a role for Belgium as the central hub in the flows of energy in Europe. You’ll find the cutesy pics on Putin's personal website.
Apparently the deal turned sour, because a year later Verhofstadt was seen inciting the mob at Maidan Square.

That’s all for today folks. But with so many prominent players gathered at the table, is there in some way a link to the Obama Administration? Yes we can. Watch this space.