As a reminder
Police to be investigated over links between paedophile case and politician’s murder, reports Sarah Helm
10 September 1996
Brussels – The authorities were facing new demands yesterday to explain possible links between a child sex ring and high-level political corruption, following the arrest of a former Belgian government minister.
In an atmosphere of mounting crisis, the Belgian press yesterday cried out for answers, declaring a virtual state of emergency.
“What country are we living in?” asked a front-page editorial in La Derniere Heure. “The most corrupt banana republics would pass for islands of tranquillity in comparison with deviant Belgium, which we no longer recognise.”
Le Soir newspaper called for suspicion to be lifted if public faith were to be restored in Belgian institutions.
Responding to the furore yesterday, Jean Luc Dehaene, the Belgian Prime Minister said: “We have to investigate the investigation.”
Alain Van der Biest was being held in a Belgian jail yesterday charged in connection with the 1991 murder of Andre Cools, who is widely believed to have been gunned down by gangsters on the orders of political rivals fearing he wanted to expose corruption.
The murder weapon used in the Cools killing was also reported to have been found late on Sunday near Liege. The sudden arrest of Mr Van der Biest, along with four other suspects arrested in the Cools case on Friday, is thought to have followed the production of new evidence during the Dutroux paedophile investigation.
Although no firm connection has been proven, certain names, associated with Belgium’s Italian Mafia gangs to be found in the Charleroi region, have come to light in both inquiries. Suspicion has brought accusations that political figures may have had reason to hush up the Dutroux child sex scandal.
During the fast-moving developments at the weekend it was also announced that Raymond Brose, chief investigator in the Cools case, had suddenly resigned from his post without explanation.
Meanwhile, further names were added to the list of people now thought to have become victims of Dutroux. Four bodies, including those of two eight-year-olds and two teenagers, have so far been found, but it is now thought Dutroux may have murdered as many as 11. Government authorities are being pressed to declare whether the sudden spate of arrests in the Cools case, coming at the height of inquiries into the Dutroux case, is simply coincidence.
For five years Cools’ murder has gone unsolved and the inquiry was thought to have run into the ground. Suspicion has fallen on gangster figures and politicians connected to the Socialist party in the French- speaking region of Wallonia, where Cools was a powerful figure.
But the Dutroux atrocities were also uncovered in this area, and inquiries have extended to webs of corruption including car thefts and property fraud in Wallonia.
The arrest of Mr Van der Biest followed the arrest of his former personal secretary, Richard Taxquet, who apparently denounced his boss to shift the blame, naming him as the man who ordered the Cools assassination.
However, the police are now being pressed to explain whether Mr Van der Biest could himself be a fall guy, protecting other, bigger names. No explanation has been given for the resignation of the chief investigator, which has further served to undermine confidence.
Inquiries into the Cools case have been constantly hampered by “the war of the judges” as rival investigators and police forces have fought for territory. Now there fears that such infighting could also have been part of an attempted cover-up.