A&O Belgium partner investigated in fraud inquiry
Legal Week reports
A senior partner at Allen & Overy’s Brussels office has been put “under suspicion” and is being questioned for a second time by Belgian authorities investigating its former client Lernout & Hauspie (L&H). Judge Krisof Vulsteke, who is leading the inquiry, has officially placed A&O partner Louis Verbeke and his firm under suspicion, together with L&H’s former auditors KPMG.The judge-led team this week seized documents relating to an audit of speech recognition company L&H conducted by Verbeke and accountants Arthur Andersen last year.The “under suspicion” charge works like a search warrant, providing Belgian authorities with power to dispatch a team of investigators, who left A&O’s offices empty-handed after their first visit on 20 June, to seize documents previously protected by legal privilege.As reported by Legal Week this month, Allen & Overy launched an internal investigation earlier this year into the matter, and is currently helping the local authorities with the inquiry, which relates to allegations of stock fraud at L&H (Legal Week, 1 July).Verbeke, who led the Belgian practice of his firm Loeff Claeys Verbeke into its merger with A&O last year, was the lead client partner for L&H until December 2000.In a statement released to Legal Week, Allen & Overy said: “The position of Allen & Overy, and the partners who previously worked with [Loeff Claeys Verbeke] (some of whom, including Louis Verbeke, are now at Allen & Overy) is that we have assisted and will continue to assist the authorities.“It is our view that the authorities will soon gain confirmation that neither Louis Verbeke nor [Loeff Claeys Verbeke] were involved in any wrong-doing.”
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