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City of Brussels admin staff cleared of stealing public money
The City of Brussels is facing a potential claim for "substantial damages" for wrongful dismissal, after a court cleared eight staff of stealing €127,000 of public money.
The clerks were dismissed in 2010 when an external audit revealed missing money in several cash registers at the population office, where ID cards are issued.
The staff had always protested their innocence and the judicial inquiry found no evidence to suggest they were involved. The public prosecutor's office itself called for their acquittal.
In his ruling, the judge said there was a wider problem within the city administration and a "lack of rigour".
He said: "It is incomprehensible that the City of Brussels was not aware of a cash shortfall earlier.
"It is also not likely that the system could have been set up by the defendants without the knowledge of their 50 other colleagues and their superiors."
Five of the clerks were contractors, who were instantly sacked, and one was seconded from the interior ministry, which began its own disciplinary procedure.
The other two, who were employed directly by the city council, had part of their salary withheld until they successfully appealed to the Council of State in 2012 for their jobs to be reinstated.
Since then, they have been suspended - a sanction that has been renewed every four months pending the outcome of this latest court case.