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Fortis shareholders to challenge against break up

BRUSSELS, January 15 – Minority shareholders of Belgian-Dutch financial services group Fortis will lodge new legal action over the break-up of the group, one of their lawyers said.

The case, targeting primarily the Belgian and Dutch states, will be filed with the Brussels commercial court early next week, said lawyer Mischael Modrikanem, who represents some 2,300 shareholders.

Belgian shareholders won a case in mid December seeking a vote on the group\’s break-up through its takeover by the Dutch government and French bank BNP Paribas.

Until the vote can be held, BNP Paribas\’ takeover of the Belgian and Luxembourg banking business of Fortis and its Belgian insurance operations has been frozen.

The shareholders\’ December court victory triggered the collapse of the Belgian government following accusations officials had sought to influence the court\’s decision.

Modrikanem told a news conference that the latest legal move aimed to widen the scope of the case by bringing in Fortis and all of its subsidiaries, the Belgian state industrial holding company, the Dutch state and the Dutch central bank.

"The Dutch have to be shown in a very clear way that they are concerned" by the move, he said.

"It\’s a fundamental error on the part of the Dutch state to think its beyond the reach of justice," he said in a reference to The Hague\’s takeover of Fortis\’ Dutch operations in October.

Fortis was broken up at the time after running into deep financial troubles in the midst of one of the worst credit crunches seen in generations.

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