Belgium Explained To Slovenes (And Whoever Else) In Ten Easy Lessons

After missing out for a week, here he is, bigger and better… The one and only…. Dr. ARF! I must admit that I’ve been looking forward to this post for some time now, because… well, there’s juicy scandals and then there are Belgian juicy scandals. Enjoy! I know I have


What with our good P reporting on Slovene scandals (just recently about the vrtički) (pengovsky’s note: At last, someone noticed!), I felt I couldn’t stay behind and give you the scoop on a choice of happenings over here that politicians, industry fat cats and other good law abiding citizens do that they don’t want to see the light of day. Let’s roll…

Willy Claes, former NATO chief who had to resign because of Agusta scandal

The Pink Ballets

In the early eighties, in the wake of the attacks of the so- called Bende van Nijvel (The Nivelles Gang), police detectives and journalists – I forgot who got there first – discovered a network of high society people, ministers, police chiefs, army top brass, judges, magistrates and captains of industry mingling with top gangsters. They all got together in secret elaborate mass orgies with a plethora of hookers (allegedly minors too), wine and dine. Deals were made there, people were blackmailed there, indiscretions on a large scale were swept under rugs… You name it, it happened. It showed that there was a small yet powerful network that had each other’s backs when it came to running the country and running its businesses. Suffice it to say, it created an outrage within the public and was never heard of since.

Westland New Post and the Shooting Clubs

Also in the wake of the Gang of Nivelles reign of terror (which was from ’82 to ’86, in which they attacked supermarkets, emptied cash registers and killed customers in military commando style, highly organized), it became apparent there was an extreme right undercurrent running through the state police and the army. They all came together under the banner of Westland New Post, an extremist right wing paramilitary movement, which organized shooting clubs. Two State Police officers, Madani Bouhouche and Robert ?Bob’ Beijer and a Walloon baron, Benoît de Bonvoisin, were members and were also suspected to have ties with the Nivelles Gang. Bouhouche and Beijer deserve their own chapter of scandals, really. They were also involved in killing weapons supplier Juan Mendez and the daylight robbery of a shipment of diamonds from Brussels National Airport. Nice cops we had here, in the 80’s… Robert Beijer was murdered, Bouchouche died under mysterious circumstances while living in France after his incarceration and de Bonvoisin has dwindled out of the limelight. And so has Westland New Post. Instead, we now have neo nazi skinheads, like everywhere else…
Funny side note : eleven years ago, I cooked for a camp of cub scouts on a terrain which lay next to Bonvoisin property. The weekly mag I read back then reported on the – still ongoing – investigation into… the Nivelles Gang attacks in the ?80’s.

Patrick Haemers and the VdB kidnapping

Still in the mid ?80’s, Brussels criminal Patrick Haemers kidnapped former prime minister Paul Vanden Boeynants. His accomplices were Axel Zeyen, Philippe Lacroix and a Kosovarian : Basri Bajrami.

Vdb, as he was then sympathetically known, was held in a villa in the north of France and released after payment of a hefty sum of money, now 1,5 million Euros. Haemers and his accomplices then escaped to Brazil and later extradited.
There are a few weird things going on here. First off, Haemers’ gang was specialized in robbing – rather brutally – money transports. Second, VdB was about to be indicted for embezzling state money and laundering it through his own meat processing company. While it was never sufficiently proven, it is widely accepted he staged his kidnapping. After all, he could afford it. Haemers getting caught was dangerous and could have implicated him. But Haemers died in his cell a while after being extradited. He hung himself… on his cell radiator. You’d really want to have to die to deliberately tightening the noose around your own neck when you can’t hang properly, don’t you? Or, how unlikely it may seem, Haemers was murdered because he knew too much. But that’s certainly not true, is it? Nah, couldn’t be : he really wanted to die, that’s the only real explanation… 👿

Insteresting side note : Philippe Lacroix got back into the news a few weeks ago, when it became known that he had studied to get a teacher’s degree in prison and was now looking for work as a teacher. At least someone paid their debt to society as well as cleaned up their act…


In the early ?90’s, parliament needed to decide where to buy new helicopters. So, offers were made by companies and reviewed by a board. And after a meticulous selection process, the Italian company Agusta was chosen… Or, at least, that’s what the Belgian public thought.

But then came the news – those pesky investigative journos! – that bribes had been given to the key players in the selection process. And they were all from socialist parties. Walloons Guy Spitaels – or Dieu (God), as the Walloon socialists called him, Guy Coëme and Guy Mathot were behind it, as well as the Flemings Frank Vandenbroucke and then NATO secretary-general Willy Claes. No surprise when they all had to step down, albeit reluctantly.

But the clincher of this story is not the bribe, it is an interesting side note. Frank Vandenbroucke, then minister of Foreign Affairs, was assigned to take care of the bribe money in possession of the Flemish SP (now SP-a; the name change being a direct result of the Agusta scandal) felt he couldn’t do anything but… burn the money. And when questioned in court, he maintained he ?didn’t know it was illegal to burn money’. As punishment, he got sent away to study in Oxford and later returned as minister in the last two administrations. We have a great sense for justice, don’t we?

The Dioxined Chickens and the Fall of the Christian Democrats

January 1999, six months before national elections. The Christian Democrats of the CVP have been in power for over 50 years. Nothing indicates at this time that this will change any time soon. Prime minister Jean-Luc Dehaene is a rough and tough politician and is set to lead the party to another victory.

But then, an animal fat processing company, Verkest, mixes animal fat with motor oil and the dioxin in it. This animal fat is used to feed other animals, mostly chickens. A few months down the line, a decline in egg laying and an increased death of chickens is noticed by food controlling agencies. So you’d think the involved ministers (of Agriculture and Public Health) would get the chooks out of the food chain, but while they did that, they also decide to cover up the mass scale of the crisis, until Flemish public TV station, VRT (no, not a garden, but Vlaamse Radio en Televisiemaatschappij – Flemish Radio and Television Broadcasting Company) brings it to light.
The involved ministers have to resign and since the whole scandal broke out right in the final election campaign weeks and people being tired of the long standing Stalinist reign of the Christian Democrats, it is the final blow for the party. They lose big time and in doing so paved the way for eight years of Liberal – Socialist government, which reign ended about a month ago and the now reformed and transformed CD&V is currently leading the formation talks for our new government…

Interesting detail : A guy with the surname Dehaene (translated : The Rooster) loses an election over a roost of poisoned chickens. Sometimes life can be so poetically just…


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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.

18 thoughts on “Belgium Explained To Slovenes (And Whoever Else) In Ten Easy Lessons”

  1. So, Agusta scandal was basically a Guy thing, eh? And regarding “VdB kidnapping”: It wouldn’t be a proper scandal if someone from former Yugoslavia wasn’t involved 😀

  2. It was a Guy thing, indeed. :mrgreen: We had a joke back then : “What sound does an Agusta chopper make? – Guyguyguyguyguyguyguy.” And the choppers were called Aguysta back then too… 😛
    If you want scandals with former YU people in them : Arkan was very close to getting asylum in Belgium when he got shot and the Kosovarian gangster Hoxha was the godfather of all things illegal in Antwerpen. Oh, and a few years back, when I was still new to Slovenija, a prison guard – I forgot his name – helped a top gangster escape, was then paid with counterfeit money (thieves’ honour, right :mrgreen:) and decided to flee to safety in… Slovenija, where he had a friend who would get him started in the construction business, if I recall correctly. But no worries, he never got there because he paid with that counterfeit money and was consequently picked up somewhere in Germany.

  3. You see, people… That’s why Slovenes were never expansionist (if you don’t count our continous claims to our immediate neighbourhood: Rijeka, Venezia, Klagenfurt etc…) – everybody and his brother comes to us – we don’t have to go anywhere 😀

  4. ARF, thank you for this interesting scandal summary! Good to be occasionally reminded that grass is not always greener. I had no idea burning money was illegal. Naively, I would have thought by destroying banknoted one’d be increasing the value of the remaining ones. Silly notion. Found this so now I understand.

    P, Trst je naš! :mrgreen:

  5. The premise that ordinary people have no idea whether or not it is illegal to burn money is defendable, dear colleague. :mrgreen: But a minister? Only in Belgium… 😛

  6. YEAH!!! 😀 We’ll sort out the details in the upcoming weeks and I’ll make sure there will be some of the Pengovksy’s Good Stuff around… 😉

  7. Hey ARF,

    Another great post! This stuff is better than any movie director could dream up.

    I am glad you bowed to the pressure and started doing these guest posts. I’m learning so much!

  8. Hvala lepa, camille. I aim to please, plus there’s enough subject matter in this small country to keep it interesting. Someone once said that surrealism isn’t an art form in Belgium, it’s a way of life. Zelo res… :mrgreen:

  9. Very good post. I am English and writing a book on these Belgian scandals. I have been struck by the way the Haemers gang was never far away from these scandals. The name “Haemers Gang” is a misnomer, by the way. Although the Haemers brothers are dead, many of the other gang members are alive and well, and still meet regularly.

    A key Haemers Gang member was Basri Bajrami, from Kosovo. He played an important role in the kidnapping of Belgian ex-Prime Minister Paul Vandenboeynants.

    It was the rapid arrest of Bajramai which lead to the downfall of the Haemers gang aftr they went on the run following the kidnapping of Vandenboeynants. He phoned his wife regularly and arranged to meet her in the French city of Metz. His wife lived in the Netherlands and, unknown to Bajrami, the Dutch police had his wife’s telepehone under surveillance. It ws the French police, not Bajrami’s wife, that met Bajrami in Metz.

    My personal view, strongly supported by documentary evidence, including leaked police files, is that the Haemers Gang were working for an organisation with strong political views. This was also the point of view of Patrick Van Brussel, the Belgian policeman who succeeded in arresting Patrick Haemers in Brazil. Patrick van Brussel died at a tragically young age (of natural causes) but leaked many key documents to a leading Belgian investigative journalist, Douglas De Conninck, before his death.

    I have never heard that Arkan almost got political asylum in Belgium. If true, that is very interesting.

  10. The citizens of Gardner, KS are currently working to recall two members of their City Council. The recall is tied up in the courts at the moment, but it should go to a vote in March of 2010.

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