September 25 2020 — The CEO of Bpost — Jean-Paul Van Avermaet — is investigated by the US Justice Department for his role in an affair of price-fixing related to the private security sector. Mr Van Avermaet can no longer travel to the US as he would certainly be arrested and questioned by the FBI. This is a serious problem as Bpost’s biggest subsidiary, e-commerce provider Radial, is based in Pennsylvania. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY
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UPDATE (July 1 2021) — A federal grand jury returned an indictment against Belgium-based Seris Security NV (Seris) and three executives for their roles in a conspiracy to fix prices, rig bids and allocate customers for defense-related security services, including a multimillion-dollar contract issued in 2020 to provide security services to the U.S. Department of Defense for military bases and installations in Belgium.
This is the second charge and first indictment involving an international conspiracy obtained by the Procurement Collusion Strike Force (PCSF) and follows G4S Secure Solution NV’s (G4S) agreement to plead guilty in the investigation.
The indictment, returned in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, charges former G4S Chief Executive Officer Jean Paul Van Avermaet; Seris Security NV (Seris); former Seris Chief Executive Officer Danny Vandormael; and former Seris Director of Guarding & Monitoring Peter Verpoort with conspiring to fix prices, rig bids and allocate customers for contracts for the provision of security services that protect the national security interests of the United States in Belgium. All of the defendants worked in Belgium and are Belgian nationals.
According to the indictment, the charged individuals, on behalf of their companies, along with other co-conspirators, participated in a conspiracy to fix prices, rig bids and allocate customers for contracts to provide security services in Belgium, including contracts for the U.S. Department of Defense and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Those services included protecting military buildings and installations via the physical presence of guards, mobile monitoring and electronic surveillance. As part of the conspiracy, the conspirators agreed in advance which company would win certain security services contracts, and the price that each would bid for the contracts. As a result, the government received non-competitive and inflated bids, and was deprived of a competitive bidding process. The charged conspiracy began as early as spring 2019 and continued until as late as summer 2020.
The defendants are each charged with a violation of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals and a $100 million fine for corporations. The maximum fine for a Sherman Act charge may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime if either amount is greater than the statutory maximum fine. [US Department of Justice (June 30 2021)]
END of UPDATE
Bpost is the Belgian company responsible for the delivery of national and international mail. The Belgian State owns 50.01% of the shares.
Mr. Van Avermaet was appointed CEO of the Bpost group in February 2020. He holds a Masters in Commercial Engineering from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KUL) and an MBA from Vlerick Business School.
Before joining Bpost, Mr. Van Avermaet was Cluster Managing Director of G4S — a private security company — for Belgium, France, Luxembourg and Morocco. He was member of the G4S European Executive Team.
G4S, Securitas and Seris have conspired to fix prices and shut down competition.
Some of the contracts illegally attributed to this cartel include the security of the US Embassy in Brussels, and the Shape command centre for NATO in Mons.
G4S has admitted its guilt. Securitas and Seris are cooperating with the investigation.
Although Mr Van Avermaet claims to be innocent, the FBI appears to have WhatsApp messages that provide incontrovertible evidence of his guilt.
This week, we learned that Henri de Romrée, the head of the American subsidiary Radial, has announced his resignation two weeks ago because he disagrees with the way Jean-Paul Van Avermaet runs the company.
Let us hope that Mr. Van Avermaet is not running Radial the way he ran G4S. In any case, I will make a safe prediction.
FBI financial experts are certainly combing through the data files of the American subsidiary. Well, it is never too early to panic. But sometimes, it is really too late to quit…
UPDATE (September 26 2020) — The share of Bpost went down 14,96% over the last week. Belgian financial newspaper L’Echo believes that the resignation of Henri de Romrée has prompted many investors to sell. Indeed, more bad news might be coming. At the very least, Bpost needs a new CEO. The sooner, the better.
BPost — Wikipedia
Belgium — BPost CEO investigated by the FBI
Belgium — Bpost CEO Investigated by FBI [UPDATE : Belgian Security Services Company and Three Former Executives Indicted for Bid Rigging on U.S. Department of Defense Contracts]