TIR trucks confiscated
35 Bulgarian truck drivers were taken off the cabins of their trucks after a massive action by the Belgian federal police on Sunday on Orthodox Easter, the specialized portal Diario de transporte reported. According to an OFFNews inspection, everyone worked on documents for a company registered in the Vabel district of Targovishte.
In the early hours of the day, dozens of unmarked police cars and unmarked cars surrounded Bulgarian-registered trucks in the Tesenderlo area of northeastern Belgium. All 35 drivers had to leave their trucks immediately, leaving all their personal belongings in them. The Bulgarians were then taken to the police station, where they were interrogated throughout the day, and only in the evening were they taken to a hotel nearby. They were told they could return to their trucks on Monday, but only to pick up their personal belongings from the cabs.
According to the Diario de transporte, all the trucks have been confiscated by the police and will be material evidence in pre-trial proceedings for violating social and tax laws in Belgium. The Sunday interrogations of the drivers were in connection with the same proceedings. It turned out that all Bulgarians work in a Belgian company and operate in Belgium, although they were employed by a fictitious Bulgarian branch with payment of Bulgarian salaries. The branch was made of so-called mailboxes and did not carry out any activity in Bulgaria, except for the registration of trucks on Bulgarian territory and the conclusion of Bulgarian employment contracts with drivers.
A report by OFFNews showed that the owners of the Bulgarian branch of the company are two brothers, Turks from Belgium and a Turkish citizen. A quick check of the number of socially insured persons shows that as of January this year, the company had paid insurance to 32 people. In 2016-2019, before the pandemic, their number was around 90-120, and the company has been operating in this form since 2011.
The Belgian carrier, which has opted for such a scheme, is threatened with high financial penalties, and the owner of the company could go to jail. Evidence of tax evasion in Belgium and social security payments will be sought in the pre-trial proceedings.
The situation is dramatic in that they have been literally thrown out of their cabins. All 35 drivers turned to the Belgian trade union BTB-ABVV for help and assistance. The union has already launched its procedures, notifying the branch union in Bulgaria.
Probably the drivers will receive some help for their return to Bulgaria and will be offered jobs in light companies. The European Labor Inspectorate ELA was also informed about the case in order to expand the investigation in Bulgaria. It is possible that in the future process the Bulgarians will claim to equalize the salaries of the average for Bulgaria with those in Belgium for at least the last two months.