5 March 2004
AMSTERDAM – A Belgian man wanted on an international arrest warrant for alleged involvement in bomb attacks in Morocco somehow managed to obtain a tax file number and a job under his own name in the Netherlands, it was reported Friday.
The authorities in Morocco have been seeking the man, identified as Khalid B., since five synchronised bomb attacks killed more than 40 people, including 12 suicide bombers, in Casablanca on 16 May 2003. The attacks were primarily aimed at Jewish targets.
The suspect, who is of Moroccan ancestry, is suspected of helping to finance the attacks.
He was detained by police during a routine check on 27 January in the Dutch province of Limburg.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office (OM) revealed earlier this week that the man produced authentic identity documents bearing his real name. Officers checked and discovered he was wanted on an international arrest warrant.
And there was another twist in the story when Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reported Friday that the man had apparently been living openly in Maaseik, Belgium, and had worked for car manufacturer Ford.
Despite the international search for him, he got a job in a Dutch cake factory, via an employment bureau. In order to take up the work, he applied for and obtained a Sofi tax number from the tax authorities in the Netherlands.
A Sofi number is the primary identity number in the Netherlands and is used when dealing with most government agencies.
The employment bureau that got him the job told the newspaper that the man’s documentation was in order and did not “set any alarm bells ringing”.
When the newspaper asked the Dutch Justice Ministry how a wanted man could obtain a Sofi number so easily, the question was forwarded to the Ministry of Social Affairs.
Then the ball was passed to the Finance Ministry, which is responsible for issuing Sofi numbers. A spokesman there said that a tax number is only issued if genuine documents are furnished with the request.
Meanwhile, Khalid B. remains in custody in the Netherlands to await a decision on whether to extradite him to Morocco. Defence lawyer Victor Koppe has raised doubts his client can get a fair trial in Morocco and warned he could face the death penalty if convicted.
[© Novum Nieuws 2004]
Subject: Dutch + Belgian News