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World - Europe

Court finds former NATO head guilty of 'passive corruption'

December 23, 1998
Web posted at: 9:02 a.m. EST (1402 GMT)

BRUSSELS, Belgium (CNN) -- Belgium's highest court on Wednesday said it found former NATO head Willy Claes guilty of "passive corruption" in the Agusta-Dassault military contracts bribery trial.

"It's a fact that the accusation of passive corruption has been proven regarding Willy Claes," Belgium's Cour de Cassation said.

The court said it had dropped forgery charges against Claes, and the verdict handed down against him related only to the case of Italian helicopter firm Agusta.

The court found French industrialist Serge Dassault guilty of "active corruption" in an arms sale by the French company Electronique Serge Dassault.

Both cases are based on allegations that the firms paid bribes into Belgian Socialist Party coffers in exchange for lucrative military contracts. Both Agusta and Dassault have denied any involvement.

The 10-year-old case implicated three former Belgian government ministers, including Claes, along with Dassault.

Claes was a Belgian economics minister at the time of the alleged bribes.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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