Curtains on Cools trial

9th January 2004, Comments 0 comments

Twelve years after the cold-blooded murder of Belgian deputy Prime Minister André Cools, six men were convicted of masterminding his killing: but what of Alain Van der Biest?

Alain Van der Biest was twice arrested - and released - for the crime.

The end of the Cools trial may be remembered for having failed to firmly establish the role of deceased Walloon politician Alain Van Der Biest in an affair which threw Belgium into turmoil.

Eight men were put on trial for masterminding the shooting of Cools by two Tunisian gunmen on 18 July 1991.

These included Richard Taxquet and Pino Di Mauro, personal secretary and chauffeur to Van Der Biest, who committed suicide two years ago.

The extent of Van der Biest’s involvement was not investigated far enough according to many observers, even though the proposal that he allegedly played a pivotal role in the killing was put forward by the prosecution.

Federal Minister for Pensions during the eighties, and subsequently Walloon Interior Minister, Van der Biest was arrested and released twice in connection with the crime, but maintained his innocence to the end.

*quote1*A former protégé of André Cools, Van der Biest was suspected of involvement in the crime as differences had arisen between himself and his former mentor, differences which he allegedly feared would endanger his career.

Cools, leader of the Socialist party, had wanted to get rid of Van der Biest, who had become an embarrassment partly because of his heavy drinking, while Taxquet and Di Mauro would loose their jobs along with their boss.

Taxquet and Di Mauro were both given 20-year prison sentences for their involvement in the Cools killing and attempted murder of his partner.

The senior prosecuting lawyer Marianne Lejeune had pushed for life imprisonment for the two men without whom, upon her estimation, Cools would never have been murdered.

“I don’t understand how their sentence can be lower than that of the Tunisians (25 years each) – they were holding the weapons but the arm belonged to Di Mauro and the head to Taxquet,” she said.

No further light was thrown on Van der Biest’s involvement in the crime, a secret which may never come to light now that he is no longer and that two of his colleagues have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

Two other Italian associates, currently suspected to be in hiding in Italy, were also given 20 years, while whistle-blower Carlo Todarello and Silvio Castellino, both received five-year sentences.

The judgment brought to an end one of Belgium's longest criminal cases. 

Cools’ murder threw the Walloon Socialist Party into confusion, while the subsequent investigation revealed several political scandals ranging from sexual follies to the payment of bribes by Italian aircraft manufacturer Augusta to socialist politicians in return for a military contract.

The ensuing scandal led to the resignation of four socialist ministers, the suicide of an army general, and the downfall of former Deputy Prime Minister Willy Claes as NATO secretary general.

January 2004

Subject: Belgian news

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