Dishonest staff account for 27 percent of theft in Belgium, according to a new study published Tuesday.
The study, compiled by the Neutral Union for Freelancers (SNI), found that the majority of thefts were carried out by a customer collaborating with a family member who works as staff.
Namely, the staff member voluntarily lets a family member, friend or acquaintance out of the store by paying a lower amount for goods or even leaving the premises without paying for them, Sud Info reported.
The practice is known as "sweet-hearting" or "appeasement," the report added.
"In general, these acts are committed by staff that knows the weaknesses of the store, but invariably the beneficiary is a relative of the staff member. It is therefore a form of theft orchestrated by store personnel," president of the SNI Christine Mattheeuws was reported as saying.
The average cost of goods stolen by shoplifters is 114 euros (120.78 U.S. dollars), but goods stolen by employees are worth 1,760 euros on average.
According to Eddy De Raedt of the Belgian Federal Police, there are around 20,000 reported thefts from businesses a year, although the real figure is believed to be much higher, and may be as high as 140,000.
According to the SNI, 87 percent of businesses that have been faced with fraudulent employees ask for references from previous employers when employing new staff. In 97 percent of cases, employees caught shoplifting were dismissed.