The seizure of assets in Belgium covers a wide array of legal procedures that can be applied to both natural persons and legal entities. This procedure usually starts when a decision was enforced in this sense, with the purpose of recovering the debts a person/legal entity has towards another party. At the same time, the seizure of assets in Belgium can be requested in the case in which the respective assets (movable and immovable properties) are related to any criminal activity.
What is the Belgian legislation regarding the seizure of assets?
The legislation in Belgium concerning the seizure of assets prescribes legal procedures for matters involving entities residents in this country, but it also covers the procedures that have to be completed in the case of international seizure of assets, which can also take place when discussing of commercial matters, considering that nowadays numerous companies have established various partnerships with other legal entities operating in foreign countries and thus, the law on debt collection in Belgium covers cross-border situations as well.
More importantly, companies operating here also have clients from across the world, as it is rather simple to address to international consumers and, occasionally, such clients (or business partners) may become debtors and will try to avoid repaying the debt they have towards an entity. In this case, the legislation on debt collection in Belgium will apply, which can also lead to the seizure of assets.
When can assets be seized in Belgium?
In order to reach the seizure of assets in Belgium, a set of legal steps have to be concluded prior to this measure (which is the most drastic option). Typically, a creditor will first try to recover the debts by contacting the debtor, reminding him or her of the current contractual situation. The creditor may also opt to address to a debt collection agency in Belgium, and its representatives can contact the debtor.
If the debtor received all the documents attesting the existence of the debt and if he or she refuses to pay or does not recognize that he or she has a financial obligation towards the creditor, the creditor can address to the Belgian courts, which will start the legal proceedings. Various legal actions can be taken, but in order to start the seizure of assets, the Belgian court will need to issue an enforceable title (if we refer to real estate properties). The following will apply:
- the seizure of assets in Belgium can be handled by an judicial officer;
- in order to start the procedure, the judicial officer will need the enforceable title if the judgment took place in Belgium;
- if the judgment involved another country, member of the European Union (EU), the judicial officer will need a declaration of enforceability as well;
- in the case of international seizure of assets, additional measures have to be completed by the creditor;
- the seizure of assets can also apply in the case of claims with a small value.
Provided that we refer to claims with a small value (which, at the level of EU, are defined as claims with a value of less than EUR 5,000), the seizure of assets can be requested, but only for the movable assets of a debtor (usually, it refers to bank accounts belonging to the debtor). Persons who are involved in a cross-border debt collection case can obtain further information on the procedure from our debt collection lawyers in Belgium.
Who handles the seizure of assets in criminal matters in Belgium?
Besides the seizure of assets related to civil and commercial matters, Belgium also prescribes legal procedures related to criminal offences. The debt collection in Belgium is concluded by specific entities, the main institution being the Central Office for Seizure and Confiscation. The Central Office for Seizure and Confiscation operates under the Ministry of Justice in Belgium and it was created with the purpose of assisting public prosecutors in handling criminal cases related to the seizure of assets.
This institution is also set up with the purpose of managing the seized assets collected from criminal activity, which can refer to the sale of such assets, preserving some of the goods or handling a part of such goods to the local police. However, the Central Office for Seizure and Confiscation in Belgium can only handle criminal cases that took place on the Belgian territory.
In the case of international criminal cases that will require the seizure of assets, the competent authority for debt collection in Belgium is the Ministry of Justice. Persons who are interested in receiving legal advice on this procedure can contact our team of debt collection lawyers in Belgium, who can provide legal representation to both natural persons and legal entities.