Philip Morris has been criminally convicted in Belgium for systematically violating the ban on tobacco advertising. The ruling is final and relates to abuses across Belgium, including through illegal sponsorship deals the world’s largest tobacco manufacturer has with stores. This is what de Tejd wrote on Saturday.
Belgian prosecutors have tried Philip Morris Benelux in criminal court because numerous inspections revealed that the manufacturer of cigarette brands Marlboro and L&M was violating the legal ban on tobacco advertising and sponsorship in various ways. Health inspectors have collected evidence of abuse at dozens of institutions across the country. This ranges from a distributor in Wijnegem in Antwerp, a tobacco seller in Adinkerke in West Flanders, gas stations in Anderlecht and Vorst, a supermarket in Huy (Country Liège), a newsagent in Bree in Limburg, to a grocery store in Châtelineau (County Hainaut) .
According to de Tejd, the criminal case was not previously known. Philip Morris Benelux, headquartered in Antwerp, went to the Court of Cassation to avoid conviction. But after convictions in first instance and on appeal, Philip Morris took a stand before the Court of Cassation, making the conviction final.
Among the malpractices for which the tobacco giant was convicted, the trade agreements it entered into with stores in Flanders, Brussels and Wallonia at least until the end of 2017. The dealers got money and other benefits if they gave Philip Morris tobacco products more visibility by displaying them in a “thoughtful and highly sophisticated manner”. The more they sell, the more rewards they get. The judge said those secret deals were illegal sponsorship.
Philip Morris Benelux spokesman Kobe Verhein says in De Tejd that the company has yet to receive the cassation ruling. “Although it is only a matter of settling old cases, we are disappointed that the court apparently did not listen to our argument.”