Absurdistan in Belgium: victim in theft case has to pay 25,000 euros

Imagine this. Two bank clercks steal shares from your safe for the amount of 1.4 million euros. They get caught and are convicted, and pay part of the money back. However, they cannot come up with the registration fees linked to the court case, which total over 25,000 euros. These have to be paid by... the victim.

The victim's lawyer, Antoon Coucke (photo), explains: "The two clerks were ordered to give the shares back and also received a prison sentence." The procedure to return the shares to the rightful owner was started, but Belgian legislation stipulates that any ruling over 12,500 euros involves the paying of registration fees.

"The question was: who had to pay for this?" explains Mr Coucke. "Belgian legislation says that those who committed the crime have to foot the bill, but there is a "but". If these people don't have any financial means left, then the Belgian state can go back to the other party involved in the case."

In the end, the victim was forced to cough up over 25,000 euros to pay the Belgian taxman. "I think we can conclude that part of our legislation is unfair. That's not new. I think lawmakers should take the initiative to abolish such laws."

What will the victim do next? "We will launch an appeal with the Belgian tax authorities. However, the problem is that nothing illegal has happened. It's the law which is unjust."