Belgian lawyer to seek damages from AB InBev heirs after acquittal
By Marine Strauss
BRUSSELS (Reuters) -A lawyer cleared of defrauding the heirs to Belgium's richest family said on Wednesday she would seek compensation from them in the Belgian courts for the damage she says they inflicted on her in almost a decade of legal proceedings.
Fara Chorfi, 61, was sentenced to 30 months in 2019 by a Geneva court, half of which was suspended, for money laundering and stock fraud to the detriment of the heirs to the world's largest brewer, Anheuser Busch InBev.
Chorfi received AB inBev stock as part of her legal fees for work carried out for the Geneva-based brothers, Patrice and Alexis Bailo de Spoelberch. But they disagreed over the payment to her and accused her of being behind the disappearance of hundreds of thousands of shares.
Her conviction was overturned on appeal last month by the Geneva Court of Justice, erasing her sentence and restoring 34 million Swiss francs ($37 million) to her along with her frozen bank accounts and assets.
She was also awarded 5 million francs in procedural costs.
Marc Uyttendaele, a lawyer for Chorfi, told Reuters she would now seek compensation in Belgian courts for harassment and procedural abuse by the heirs. He did not say how much money she was seeking.
"The harm that Fara Chorfi has suffered is irreparable. But we'll do everything we can do ensure the brothers account for their actions," he said.
Lawyers for the brothers said they planned to appeal her acquittal. They did not immediately comment on her decision to seek compensation.
Chorfi, who had always denied the charges, was previously sentenced to 24 months in prison, 15 of them suspended, in 2016 by a Luxembourg court for attempted fraud in a case involving the 2005 will of the late AB InBev heiress Amicie de Spoelberch, widow of Luka Bailo.
When Bailo died in 2004, some 915,000 AB InBev bearer shares, worth more than 3.5 billion euros today ($3.75 billion), were removed from a Luxembourg safe deposit box.
Bailo's sons, who had been adopted by de Spoelberch, asked Chorfi's law firm to recover those shares. But they disagreed over her fees, and said she was behind the disappearance of the shares, leading to her re-arrest in 2017.
($1 = 0.9243 Swiss francs)
($1 = 0.9345 euros)
(Reporting by Marine Strauss, Editing by Mark Heinrich and Kylie MacLellan)