The Life and Times of Jacques de Groote

17 December 2013 by Eric Toussaint

Jacques de Groote, the former Executive Director to the IMF IMF
International Monetary Fund
Along with the World Bank, the IMF was founded on the day the Bretton Woods Agreements were signed. Its first mission was to support the new system of standard exchange rates.

When the Bretton Wood fixed rates system came to an end in 1971, the main function of the IMF became that of being both policeman and fireman for global capital: it acts as policeman when it enforces its Structural Adjustment Policies and as fireman when it steps in to help out governments in risk of defaulting on debt repayments.

As for the World Bank, a weighted voting system operates: depending on the amount paid as contribution by each member state. 85% of the votes is required to modify the IMF Charter (which means that the USA with 17,68% % of the votes has a de facto veto on any change).

The institution is dominated by five countries: the United States (16,74%), Japan (6,23%), Germany (5,81%), France (4,29%) and the UK (4,29%).
The other 183 member countries are divided into groups led by one country. The most important one (6,57% of the votes) is led by Belgium. The least important group of countries (1,55% of the votes) is led by Gabon and brings together African countries.

http://imf.org
(1973-1994) and World Bank World Bank
WB
The World Bank was founded as part of the new international monetary system set up at Bretton Woods in 1944. Its capital is provided by member states’ contributions and loans on the international money markets. It financed public and private projects in Third World and East European countries.

It consists of several closely associated institutions, among which :

1. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, 180 members in 1997), which provides loans in productive sectors such as farming or energy ;

2. The International Development Association (IDA, 159 members in 1997), which provides less advanced countries with long-term loans (35-40 years) at very low interest (1%) ;

3. The International Finance Corporation (IFC), which provides both loan and equity finance for business ventures in developing countries.

As Third World Debt gets worse, the World Bank (along with the IMF) tends to adopt a macro-economic perspective. For instance, it enforces adjustment policies that are intended to balance heavily indebted countries’ payments. The World Bank advises those countries that have to undergo the IMF’s therapy on such matters as how to reduce budget deficits, round up savings, enduce foreign investors to settle within their borders, or free prices and exchange rates.

http://worldbank.org
(1975-1991) for Belgium, was condemned in October 2013 by Swiss courts in an affair concerning the fraudulent privatisation of the principal coal mine in the Czech Republic.

His co-defendants, five Czech businessmen, were given fines and prison sentences ranging from 36 to 52 months. The five Czechs were found guilty of aggravated money laundering and fraud or complicity of fraud. These verdicts punish them for the misappropriation of assets of the Czech mining company MUS (Mosteck Uhelna Spolecnost) from 1997 to 2003. These five corrupt businessmen, some of whom were ex-executives of the company or members of its Supervisory Committee, had succeeded in gaining control of nearly 97% of MUS. Deposited in nearly one hundred bank accounts in Switzerland, Liechtenstein, the Bahamas, and elsewhere, the money they misappropriated was laundered via more than 30 intermediary companies. According to the Swiss daily, Le Temps, “Jacques de Groote participated in this massive deceit and received about one million Swiss francs in return. He played a shady role backing up the idea that there were possible foreign investors. Thanks to him, the five Czech businessmen could go forward wearing a mask.” |1| “He took advantage of his excellent reputation” and gave the Czech authorities and media information that he knew was “contrary to reality”, lamented Jean-Luc Bacher, president of the court, as he read out the guilty verdict. |2| According to La Libre Belgigue, which is generally favourable to him, following the judgement Jacques de Groote declared: “I will appeal this decision to show that I acted in good faith. It is crucial for me to put an end to this long chain of trials that has lasted for more than ten years, and ruined me morally, financially, and at 86 years old – physically”. |3|

Beyond the narrow scope of this trial, it is interesting to take a broader look at Jacques de Groote’s personal trajectory, because he was an emblematic figure of the IMF IMF
International Monetary Fund
Along with the World Bank, the IMF was founded on the day the Bretton Woods Agreements were signed. Its first mission was to support the new system of standard exchange rates.

When the Bretton Wood fixed rates system came to an end in 1971, the main function of the IMF became that of being both policeman and fireman for global capital: it acts as policeman when it enforces its Structural Adjustment Policies and as fireman when it steps in to help out governments in risk of defaulting on debt repayments.

As for the World Bank, a weighted voting system operates: depending on the amount paid as contribution by each member state. 85% of the votes is required to modify the IMF Charter (which means that the USA with 17,68% % of the votes has a de facto veto on any change).

The institution is dominated by five countries: the United States (16,74%), Japan (6,23%), Germany (5,81%), France (4,29%) and the UK (4,29%).
The other 183 member countries are divided into groups led by one country. The most important one (6,57% of the votes) is led by Belgium. The least important group of countries (1,55% of the votes) is led by Gabon and brings together African countries.

http://imf.org
and World Bank World Bank
WB
The World Bank was founded as part of the new international monetary system set up at Bretton Woods in 1944. Its capital is provided by member states’ contributions and loans on the international money markets. It financed public and private projects in Third World and East European countries.

It consists of several closely associated institutions, among which :

1. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, 180 members in 1997), which provides loans in productive sectors such as farming or energy ;

2. The International Development Association (IDA, 159 members in 1997), which provides less advanced countries with long-term loans (35-40 years) at very low interest (1%) ;

3. The International Finance Corporation (IFC), which provides both loan and equity finance for business ventures in developing countries.

As Third World Debt gets worse, the World Bank (along with the IMF) tends to adopt a macro-economic perspective. For instance, it enforces adjustment policies that are intended to balance heavily indebted countries’ payments. The World Bank advises those countries that have to undergo the IMF’s therapy on such matters as how to reduce budget deficits, round up savings, enduce foreign investors to settle within their borders, or free prices and exchange rates.

http://worldbank.org
, and there is a link between the role he played in these institutions and this affair brought before Swiss courts.

Chronology

1960 Jacques de Groote participates as a Belgian civil servant at the round table that prepared the independence of the Congo, which was proclaimed on 30 June 1960.

14 September 1960 Mobutu organises a coup against President Joseph Kasavubu and his Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. An interim government was set up, headed by Justin Bomboko.

October 1960 Mobutu has Patrice Lumumba arrested.

17 January 1961 Assassination of Patrice Lumumba in Katanga. Belgium, Mobutu, and political leaders from Katanga, including Moïse Tshombé, played an active role in this murder. The CIA also has a mission to assassinate Lumumba.
April 1960 to May 1963  J. de Groote was the assistant of Belgium’s Executive Director to the IMF and World Bank in Washington.

1961 Mobutu returned the power to Joseph Kasavabu, who appointed him Commander-in-chief of the army.

24 November 1965 Mobutu dismisses President Joseph Kasavubu and seizes power with support from the high command of the army, Belgian authorities, and the United States. As of this moment, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund actively support Mobutu’s dictatorial regime.

March 1966 to May 1969 J. de Groote was Congo’s chief economic advisor and an advisor of the Governor of the National Bank of Congo in Kinshasa. He was in charge of the Union minière mining company (now called Gécamines).

May 1969 to November 1973 He was financial advisor for the Belgian delegation to the OECD OECD
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
OECD: the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, created in 1960. It includes the major industrialized countries and has 34 members as of January 2016.

http://www.oecd.org/about/membersandpartners/
in Paris.

1970 Mobutu’s PMR becomes the only valid political party in the Congo. Official visit by the Belgian King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola to celebrate the 10th anniversary of independence. Belgium, the United States, France, and other Western powers offer military and financial support to the Mobutu regime.

1973 to 1994  J. de Groote was the Executive Director to the IMF in Washington for Belgium, which presides over a group of countries with 5% of the total votes (more than France, the United Kingdom, China, or India). From 1973 to 1991, he was also Belgium’s Executive Director to the World Bank. At the end of his term, the group over which he presided was made up of Belgium, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Austria, Luxembourg, Turkey, Belarus, Hungary, and Kazakhstan.

May 1978 Intervention of Belgian and French troops in Kolwezi to protect Mobutu from a rebellion aimed at overthrowing him.

1980 to 1989  J. de Groote was a member of the jury of the King Baudouin Foundation, which “fights against poverty and underdevelopment.”

Early 1980s According to J. de Groote, Rwandan authorities asked him to represent them at the World Bank. J. de Groote acted in favour of a devaluation Devaluation A lowering of the exchange rate of one currency as regards others. of the Rwandan franc, which served the interests of Baron van den Branden’s mine “Géomines;” the Baron then convinced the Belgian bank Nagelmaekers to give J. de Groote a loan. These facts were subsequently exposed by the Wall Street Journal. In an interview with the daily newspaper Le Soir, J. de Groote responded to these accusations: “It’s not my fault if I have a friend who has a mine in Rwanda. And if I asked him to help me obtain this loan, it’s because I wanted to avoid asking the banks myself due to my very close relations with them.” |4|

In the early 1980s, when the Third World debt crisis erupted, Rwanda (just like its neighbour Burundi) had a very low level of debt. Whereas at that very moment, the World Bank and the IMF were abandoning their policy of active lending, preaching austerity instead, in Rwanda, and Mobutu’s Zaire, they adopted a very different approach, lending them massive amounts of money. As a result, Rwanda’s foreign debt increased twenty fold between 1976 and 1994.
1982  The Blumenthal Report, written on the request of the IMF, was made public. It exposed the systematic corruption characterizing Mobutu’s regime. Nonetheless, the World Bank and the IMF increased their lending to his regime.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Jacques de Groote informed the authorities in Kinshasa what the IMF mission was expecting of them before it visited the country in 1982. At stake was a $246 million loan from the IMF.

1986  According to the Wall Street Journal, J. de Groote visited Mobutu in his villa in the South of France in August 1986.

1989-1991  Fall of the Berlin Wall and implosion of the Soviet Union, Mobutu’s regime is no longer useful to the Western powers, the World Bank, or the IMF.

December 1990  The Wall Street Journal publishes the results of a long investigation concerning Jacques de Groote. The newspaper shows that de Groote systematically took advantage of his influence at the IMF and the World Bank to serve the interests of Mobutu. The editorial staff considered that there was a conflict of interest Interest An amount paid in remuneration of an investment or received by a lender. Interest is calculated on the amount of the capital invested or borrowed, the duration of the operation and the rate that has been set. because de Groote used his position to make financial gains. The financial daily affirmed that de Groote also benefited financially from his position at the World Bank and IMF in his dealings with Rwanda.

Late 1990  Jacques de Groote and Alain Aboudarham start working together. The former lends a hand to the latter by helping his company pay less tax in the Czech Republic and sign a contract to build a pipeline in India.

1991  End of J. de Groote’s term of office at the World Bank.

1991  The IMF breaks off its relations with Zaire. The World Bank follows suit in 1993. With no new funds coming from abroad, Mobutu’s Zaire no longer had enough liquidities Liquidities The capital an economy or company has available at a given point in time. A lack of liquidities can force a company into liquidation and an economy into recession. to pay its debt instalments so it stopped making payments in 1994.

1992-1994  Alain Aboudarham wrote: “In exchange for his consultancy work for my company from 1992 to 1994, M. de Groote earned $1,292,902 in commissions.”

1994  End of J. de Groote’s term of office at the IMF.

April-June 1994  Genocide in Rwanda, more than 900,000 Tutsis and Hutus are assassinated. France intervenes militarily in support of the genocidal regime and exfiltrates genocide perpetrators towards Congo-Kinshasa. The CADTM implicated the World Bank and IMF, which had imposed socially disastrous policies in Rwanda and supported General Habyarimana’s dictatorship until 1993.

1997  The fall of Mobutu’s regime.

1998  The fraudulent privatisation of the MUS mine in the Czech Republic begins.

1998-1999  J. de Groote becomes the President of the Appian Group, a Swiss company based in Fribourg, specialising in investments in the companies being privatised in Central and Eastern Europe, particularly in the Czech Republic. According to the Financial Times, in 2004, the Appian Group had 15,000 employees and owned the Skoda engineering group -no relation to the Skoda automobile company- (which had also been privatised) in addition to the MUS mine (purchased in 1998).

2000  A $500,000 dollar loan from Alain Aboudarham to Jacques de Groote turns bad, and their relationship becomes hostile.

2002  Alain Aboudarham puts pressure on Jacques de Groote and his Czech partners to get back his money, but is unsuccessful.

December 2004  Alain Aboudarham writes a letter to the Swiss courts to “reveal the affair.”

June 2005  Alain Aboudarham is summoned before the Swiss courts to explain in detail his denunciation. Immediately afterwards, the Swiss attorney general’s office (MPC) opens an investigation.

2004 to 2006  In the United States, different courts judge the dispute between Alain Aboudarham and Jacques de Groote.

2006  Informed of the trials in the United States, the CADTM asks Gino Alzetta, the Executive Director to the World Bank for the group presided over by Belgium, about J. de Groote’s behaviour. Gino Alzetta asserts that he saw nothing reprehensible in de Groote’s behaviour.

January to March 2008  During a “complex international financial investigation,” Swiss authorities ordered the freezing of assets worth 660 million Swiss francs on nearly 100 bank accounts in Switzerland.

21 October 2011  The Swiss attorney general’s office (MPC) transmits a bill of indictment to the federal penal court, accusing Jacques de Groote and six Czech citizens of aggravated money laundering, fraud, and other charges.

13 May 2013  The trial opens in Bellinzona in the Swiss canton Ticino. J. de Groote refuses to go the trial, and claims that he is completely innocent.

May 2013  The CADTM questions Gino Alzetta (Belgian Executive Director to the World Bank) a second time about the accusations lodged against J. de Groote. Gino Alzetta reiterates his support for J. de Groote.

July 2013  The Swiss attorney general’s office (MPC) calls for a two-year suspended prison sentence and a 162,000 euro fine (200,000 Swiss francs) for Jacques de Groote.

October 2013  Jacques de Groote is condemned of fraud by the Swiss courts. The 5 Czechs who organised the fraud are sentenced to prison. The frozen assets (660 million Swiss francs) will be paid to the Czechs who were victims of the fraud that occurred during the privatisation.

Sources: Biography: Dr. Jacques De Groote http://www.zoominfo.com/p/Jacques-D...; Le Temps, Wall Street Journal, Le Soir, and other research by Eric Toussaint.

Translated from French by Charles La Via and Mike Krolikowski


Eric Toussaint, the president of CADTM Belgium (Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt, www.cadtm.org), is a senior lecturer at the University of Liege (Belgium). He recently published Procès d’un homme exemplaire (The Trial of an Exemplary Man), Edition Al Dante, Marseille, September 2013.  The World Bank: a never-ending coup d’Etat. The hidden agenda of the Washington Consensus, VAK, Bombay, 2007. See also Eric Toussaint’s doctoral dissertation in political science Political aspects of World Bank and International Monetary Fund actions toward the Third World. He is the co-author, with Damien Millet, of Debt, the IMF, and the World Bank: Sixty Questions, Sixty Answers, Monthly Review Books, New York, 2010. La dette ou la vie (Debt or Life?) co-published by CADTM- Aden, Liège-Brussels, 2011.

Footnotes

|1| Le Temps, « CH/TPF: épilogue d’une escroquerie au préjudice de l’Etat tchèque » (CH/TPF: epilogue of fraud against the Czech Republic),
http://www.letemps.ch/Page/Uuid/0fc...

|2| Le Temps, « Les six accusés de l’affaire MUS sont déclarés coupables » (Six defendants in the MUS affair found guilty) http://www.letemps.ch/Page/Uuid/474...

|3| La Libre Belgique, “Jacques de Groote condamné à une amende avec sursis” (Jacques de Groote condemned to pay a suspended fine), 11 October 2013 http://www.lalibre.be/economie/jacq...

|4| Béatrice Delvaux, « Jacques de Groote s’explique » (Jacques de Groote explains his actions), Le Soir, 2 January1991 http://archives.lesoir.be/jacques-d...

Author

Eric Toussaint

is a historian and political scientist who completed his Ph.D. at the universities of Paris VIII and Liège, is the spokesperson of the CADTM International, and sits on the Scientific Council of ATTAC France. He is the author of Bankocracy (2015); The Life and Crimes of an Exemplary Man (2014); Glance in the Rear View Mirror. Neoliberal Ideology From its Origins to the Present, Haymarket books, Chicago, 2012 (see here), etc. See his bibliography: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89ric_Toussaint He co-authored World debt figures 2015 with Pierre Gottiniaux, Daniel Munevar and Antonio Sanabria (2015); and with Damien Millet Debt, the IMF, and the World Bank: Sixty Questions, Sixty Answers, Monthly Review Books, New York, 2010. Since the 4th April 2015 he is the scientific coordinator of the Greek Truth Commission on Public Debt.


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