Two Years Later - Still a White-Collar Criminal in Brussels

Courtesy of Brussels Net

Early January, France was in the throes of bloody terrorist attacks. We were aghast and in a state of immeasurable affliction.

I was in Brittany at the time while Popeye was in Belgium. It was hard to talk about anything else but what had happened. Not only us but the whole world.

And yet…

Brussels Net/Propreté chose this very moment to send me a new and very threatening certified letter. Dear readers, do you remember the post I wrote in June 2013 : “In Brussels I am a white-collar criminal”? Well, I had payed up the fine and this was January 2015, almost two years after my “criminal offence” and yet…

And yet…

There it was again. The same old charges… with an escalation of disciplinary actions against me, based on legal articles concerning some kind of aggravated environmental pollution… Much, much higher fines up to 625 euros and a possible court action.

Swee’Pea, Popeye and I did think for a while that some dishonest employee from Brussels Propreté was trying to scare me in order to squeeze money out of the-French-expatriate-poor-me.

The reality was quite different. There was no dishonest employee. The letter did come from Brussels Net/Propreté. Far be it from me to accuse Brussels Net/Propreté of dishonesty, of course.

And yet…

I had already payed a fine in 2013. They had not cleared me of the charge but I was allowed to state mitigating circumstances that might get them to soften the penalty.

I was very angry. Environmental pollution! Legal proceedings! Mitigating circumstances!

Their letter was threatening and in many ways, incredibly arrogant.

I decided to answer in order to try to disprove their charge.

I wrote a long, a very long letter in which I explained the way things had happened. I wrote about my environmental activism. I admitted that the week-end had been a very busy week-end and that somehow we had dropped our guard, selective-sorting-wise.

It was true that a few and not very kosher things had missed the selective sorting of household waste.

On the other hand, it didn’t look good to put two (empty) cans of coca cola and a couple of (empty) envelopes and one tea bag wrapping and a very small empty can of nuts in the same category as high hazard environmental pollution, did it?

I went on and on and on. I even quoted my post (“read by people from all over the world” I said… aha!). I added the pictures I had used to give good measure. Tit for tat.

I was so angry. Loosing so much time and using so much energy for something so trivial and so useless.

I asked my men to check my answer. Well, they were not very enthusiastic about it. Too visceral and emotional. I needed to take stock.

Popeye came up with a great idea. I only had to mail the letter to their (Belgian) lawyer to get some legal advice. No sooner said than done.

The lawyer answered me within the hour. He’d phone Brussels Net the following day and let me know what to do. There was a chance they would back-pedal.

They didn’t back-pedal but I got some precious advice from the lawyer.

No affect. Facts. This was totally brilliant! Facts: They were completely at fault concerning their timing. Too much time had elapsed between their first administrative action and the new legal proceedings. They had six months to take me to court from the moment they ripped our garbage bag apart and sent me the first letter. I had payed the fine. All this explained in a very legal sounding language. This would be just perfect.

I rewrote my letter which I sent certified, of course. I was sure it’d take them at least another year to answer. Wrong. I got an answer two days later. According to “evident mitigating circumstances”, they were willing to downsize my new possible fine of 625 euros to a minimum of 62,50 euros and they would wipe the slate clean. They also gave me the choice to take legal action instead of paying the fine. Most kind of them.

I could have decided to fight them. I chose not to for very obvious reasons. I threw my 62 dollars at them, metaphorically speaking of course.

Tonight Popeye called me from Belgium. The garbage men had already collected the bags on our side of the street when he noticed he had forgotten to take the garbage out. No problem. He went and dropped our bags among the garbage bags of our neighbors from across the street.

Good grief, man. According to the article so and/or so of the edict of… our garbage cannot be moved across the street or else!

To be honest, I believe that I do not enjoy at all being a white-collar criminal in Belgium. 

*Good Luck, and Good Night*

1 comment:

Nancy said...

What a headache for you! I'm so sorry!