A lawsuit against the family-owned company Verjans Transport has shocked the Belgian freight transport sector.
Company executives at the transport company were found guilty of social insurance fraud as well as being members of a criminal organisation. As a result, Verjans Transport must pay back 4.6 million euros to Belgium’s national insurance authority (ONSS), while the company’s management have been handed suspended prison sentences.
Verjans Transport first came under public scrutiny when one of their drivers reported the company to the regulatory authorities. The driver claimed he was forced to work for 10 days after it was discovered he had a broken a bone in his foot.
The resulting investigation then revealed shady practices that the company had been using for years, actions that were described by Spanish transport website transportealdia.es as „the evil that plagues the transport industry throughout Europe.”
Based on the evidence collected, the owners of Verjans Transport were convicted of belonging to a criminal organization. On top of that, they were found guilty of tax and social insurance fraud after employing 183 drivers from Slovakia and Romania under Slovakian contracts – despite the fact their work was conducted exclusively in Belgium.
The employment contracts were drawn up on behalf of companies based in Slovakia so as to benefit from lower tax liabilities. The accusations cover a fairly long period too – from January 2009 to December 2016.
The lack of employee declarations in Belgium’s national social security system (ONSS), along with the previously mentioned practices, played a key role in the prosecution against the bosses of Verjans Transport.
The final verdict of the Liège court was not as harsh as the prosecutor’s demands of 12 years in prison and a fine of almost 2 million euros. According to the Belgian news portal dhnet.be, the judge reduced the prison sentence for four defendants to 2 years suspended.
The defendants were also ordered to return over 4.6 million to the ONSS. During a search carried out on the company, 300,000 euros were seized, all of which has already been transferred to the Belgian social insurance authority.