Politician's unsolved murder linked to paedophile ring

Belgium was rocked at the weekend by new revelations which could produce explosive links between the ongoing child sex horror and high- level political corruption.

On Friday, Belgian authorities announced that four men had been arrested in connection with the murder in 1991 of Andre Cools, the former deputy prime minister.

The Cools murder was never solved, but has become linked with a series of big corruption scandals that have placed Belgium's political class under suspicion, and led to several resignations. The Cools affair was connected by some commentators to the Augusta scandal, which involved kick-backs to the Belgian Socialist Party paid by the Italian company in return for a helicopter contract. The affair led to the resignation last year of Willy Claes, Belgium's former Socialist minister, as Secretary General of Nato.

Yesterday a fifth man was arrested as part of the Cools investigation, and speculation was rife in the Belgian media that the arrests had come about as a result of inquiries into the paedophile ring of Marc Detroux.

For nearly a month Belgium has been traumatised by the revelations of murder, torture and child sex abuse. Four victims' bodies have so far been recovered but several more murders are suspected and the tragedy brought accusations of incompetence and complicity against the police and justice authorities. Public anger erupted when it was revealed that Mr Detroux was released from prison in 1992 after serving only three years of a 13-year prison sentence for multiple child rape. The inquiries in the Detroux scandal have produced evidence of links between this ring and trading in children and pornography in Eastern Europe.

Amid the pall of suspicion over how the paedophile scandal remained undiscovered for so long, the sudden arrest of suspects in the Cools inquiry has inevitably produced speculation.

Among those arrested are former political colleagues of Cools, including Richard Taxquet and Alain van de Biest. Mr Taxquet, who was briefly arrested in 1994 in connection with the murder, was personal secretary to Mr van de Biest, a Socialist minister in the regional government of Wallonia. Mr van de Biest was yesterday charged with organising the assassination of Cools.

Three direct links between the two inquiries have been highlighted. First, when police searched Mr Detroux's garage, near Charleroi in Wallonia, southern Belgium, three weeks ago, they found a red motorbike. A red motorbike was seen in the vicinity of Cools' home at the time of his murder.

Second, there is a likelihood that Georges Zicot, the policeman arrested in connection with the Detroux case, may have decided to name names in the Cools affair. Mr Zicot is accused of protecting a group of car thieves associated with the Detroux ring. Third, the Detroux inquiry team are reported to have asked to see evidence which has come to light during the five-year Cools investigation.

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