Popular Belgian radio host resigns following paedophilia allegations

Popular Belgian radio host resigns following paedophilia allegations
Sven Pichal. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

A popular Flemish radio host has resigned after becoming embroiled in a paedophilia scandal that has rocked the Belgian media industry.

Sven Pichal, the 44-year-old presenter of VRT Radio 2's consumer affairs programme 'The Inspector' (De Inspecteur), was arrested by federal police officers at his home near Antwerp last Thursday on suspicion of possessing and distributing child pornography.

Two days later, Pichal formally announced his resignation from VRT. "Sven Pichal has decided to resign from VRT for personal reasons," read a statement issued by the presenter's lawyer. "Sven will be professionally guided and withdraw from public life. Sven will not comment further and wishes to thank everyone who supported him."

VRT spokesperson Bob Vermeir subsequently confirmed Pichal's decision. "Quite a few colleagues are shocked, everyone knew Sven well," he said. "We are now looking at how we can replace Sven."

In a written response, Radio 2 added: "We understand that this news is a shock to you; it is also to us. In the meantime, let the court do its job. We understand that there are also many questions about how to proceed with 'The Inspector'. As soon as this is clear, it will be communicated."

Pichal has presented numerous radio programmes for VRT over the last 20 years, including (with Annemie Peeters) the popular Radio 1 show 'Peeters & Pichal' from 2007 to 2012. He has hosted 'The Inspector' for the past decade, where he provides listeners with consumer-related facts and tips.

Possible co-conspirators?

Some Flemish commentators have noted that the investigating judge's decision to place Pichal in pre-trial detention suggests that other individuals may be implicated in the case.

"You can only be detained on the basis of four criteria while waiting for an appearance before the Council Chamber," explained VTM News journalist Rob Van herck. He added that these include potential recidivism, absconding, the destruction of evidence, or collusion with co-conspirators.

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"[Collusion] is perhaps important in this case," he said. "It means that Pichal could possibly consult with those other suspects or could agree to destroy possible evidence. The investigating judge has therefore ruled that one of those four criteria, or even several, has been met."

Van herck's suspicions appear to have been confirmed by VRT itself. "We hear that there are investigations into moral misconduct and that an investigation is being conducted against a group of people and not just against Sven Pichal," said Vermeir, the broadcaster's spokesperson.

Pichal, who is married and has two foster children, is currently being held at Turnhout prison. He is scheduled to appear before the Antwerp Council Chamber on Wednesday morning, which will decide whether he will remain in pre-trial detention for the next month.

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