King Filip's honour for George Forrest under fire Author: Colin Clapson

Tue 15/04/2014 - 12:05 Colin Clapson King Filip's decision to give a gong to the Belgian industrialist George Forrest clearly courts controversy. The decision to make the controversial industrialist a Grand Officer in the Crown Order has raised many an eyebrow.

The umbrella of Belgian international development organisations, 11.11.11, says King Filip has made a rather bizarre choice. 11.11.11. notes that the UN earlier criticised Mr Forrest's business methods in Congo.

There are allegations that Mr Forrest's activities do not benefit the region of Congo where he is active and that profits were used to fund the conflict in eastern Congo.

John Vandaele, a journalist working for the international development magazine MO, concedes that Mr Forrest has succeeded in maintaining Belgian influence in difficult times and despite the corrupt regime in Congo, but wonders how the Belgian is able to continue to exert influence in that country.

George Forrest is a Belgian of New Zealand heritage. He heads the Forrest Group. Established in 1922 in the Congolese province of Katanga it was originally active in logistics and then turned to mining. Under Forrest's leadership the group also moved into cement and machinery and expanded to South America and the Gulf states.

George Forrest has enjoyed close ties with various Zairean and Congolese leaders triggering considerable criticism. The UN suspected him of syphoning off Congo's riches, but failed to prove its case.