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Lawyer for Kidnap Suspect Arrested by Belgian Police

From Reuters

The lawyer of an alleged gang leader being hunted for the kidnaping of a former Belgian prime minister has been arrested on suspicion of masterminding the abduction, the prosecutors office said today.

Michel Vander Elst, 41, was placed under arrest after nine hours of questioning on suspicion of being “the author, co-author or an accomplice in the kidnap” of Paul Vanden Boeynants, a spokesman said.

Other accusations included extortion and forgery.

The lawyer denied the accusations, saying he was faced with the problem of professional secrecy in defending himself, the spokesman said.

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Vander Elst represents Patrick Haemers, 36, the alleged leader of a gang being hunted by police for a string of unsolved violent crimes, including the kidnaping.

Vanden Boeynants was snatched in the garage of his Brussels home on Jan. 14 and released a month later after a ransom of up to $2.5 million had been paid.

The spokesman said there were three elements which led to the arrest of Vander Elst, who lives in the same apartment building as Vanden Boeynants.

He had seen some of the suspected kidnapers after they had rented a villa in the northern French resort of Le Touquet where Vanden Boeynants was manacled to a wall for a month.

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The lawyer had also received phone calls from public booths in Le Touquet.

In addition his fingerprints were found in a Brussels apartment police think the gang used when it planned the kidnaping.

Haemers, billed as Belgium’s public enemy No. 1, has been on the run since escaping from police custody in a commando-style raid 19 months ago.


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