Belgium's transport minister quits after accusations she lied about airport security before Brussels Attacks: Media

Belgian Transport Minister Jacqueline Galant gestures during a plenary session of the Chamber at the federal parliament, in Brussels, on April 14, 2016.
Belgian Transport Minister Jacqueline Galant gestures during a plenary session of the Chamber at the federal parliament, in Brussels, on April 14, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

BRUSSELS (REUTERS/BLOOMBERG) - The Belgian transport minister resigned on Friday (April 15), local media said, after accusations she lied about an European Union report that criticised security at Brussels Airport long before last month's bombing.

Ms Jacqueline Galant had previously maintained before Parliament that her office had not been aware of a critical report sent in March 2015 by EU officials.

Opposition parties said they had e-mails proving the contrary.

European Commission officials declined comment on the report, but noted they carry out regular checks on security at European airports and raise any concerns with national authorities.

"A summary of the report had been discussed and sent to the minister's Cabinet in June 2015," Prime Minister Charles Michel told a news conference after accepting Ms Galant's resignation.

"I cannot accept that Parliament was not made aware of this important point yesterday," Mr Michel added.

Belgium's King Philippe also accepted her resignation, Mr Michel told reporters in Brussels on Friday.

Mr Michel, who said a replacement for Ms Galant will be revealed at the right time, added that the Belgian government takes security to the heart and had already earmarked extra funds to make public transportation more secure before the March 22 terror attacks.

Mr Michel had earlier defended the minister, who is from his own centrist party in the coalition government, saying her office had not been aware of a critical report sent a year ago by EU officials.

Government officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

RTBF quoted a spokesman for the centrist MR party saying that documents presented late on Thursday had shown that Ms Galant's office had indeed been informed of the EU report.

Ms Galant is a member of Mr Michel's centrist party, which rules in coalition with three others.

Ms Galant complained of a "crusade" against her by a senior official in the state transport administration.

On March 22, two Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) suicide bombers detonated suitcase bombs in the departure hall of Brussels Airport before a third struck a metro train in the city. In all, they killed 32 people.

Following the attacks and in the face of criticism of the Belgian government at home and abroad, the interior and justice ministers offered their resignations to Mr Michel over failures by police to detain one of the bombers, who had been on wanted lists, but the Premier asked them to stay on.