New investigation discredits at least 12 Belgian honorary consuls

At least 12 current or former Belgian honorary consuls have been publicly accused of misdeeds or are embroiled in controversy by a new investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The publications Knack, De Tijd and Le Soir participated for Belgium.

Belgium has a total of 276 honorary consuls in 111 countries. These are voluntary diplomats who provide assistance in cases of robberies, accidents or deaths, for example. They live in the host country and have also built a career there, so they usually have interesting contacts. 

Honorary consuls must be "of impeccable conduct and enjoy an honourable reputation", the 2016 royal decree on the status of honorary consuls states. Yet the investigation shows that at least 500 honorary consuls worldwide have been discredited, including 12 Belgian ones.

Joris Salden, director general of Consular Affairs at the FPS Foreign Affairs, called for caution. "On individual cases I cannot comment. But a reputation is fragile. Just because there is an allegation somewhere on the internet does not mean it is true."

Foreign Affairs dismisses honorary consuls only when they have been criminally convicted. The procedure is described in the 2016 RD. It is a tough and public procedure, with risk of reputational damage. From well-informed sources, Knack, De Tijd and Le Soir learned that Foreign Affairs sometimes also handles problem cases 'diplomatically'. The honorary consulate is then simply closed, without playing the man.

Prior to the 2016 RD, some scandals involving honorary consuls made headlines. One example is Belgium's honorary consul in Zurich, who was sidelined by Foreign Affairs in late 2013. He was suspected of receiving bribes in the construction of an incinerator in Wallonia. In 2019, Liège's Court of Appeal convicted him of corruption. The man was "honorably" dismissed from his post as honorary consul.




Get updates in your mailbox

By clicking "Subscribe" I confirm I have read and agree to the Privacy Policy.


Belga News Agency delivers dependable, rapid and high-quality information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from Belgium and abroad to all Belgian media. The information covers all sectors, from politics, economics and finance to social affairs, sports and culture, not to mention entertainment and lifestyle.

Every day, our journalists and press photographers produce hundreds of photos and news stories, dozens of online information items, plus audio and video bulletins, all in both national languages. Since the end of March 2022 English has been added as a language.

For public institutions, businesses and various organisations that need reliable information, Belga News Agency also offers a comprehensive range of corporate services to meet all their communication needs.


Arduinkaai 29 1000 Brussels