Two men suspected of defrauding 94 victims out of €7.4 million
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    Two men suspected of defrauding 94 victims out of €7.4 million

    The abbey of Affligem, some of whose clerics were victims of the fraud © DirkVE/Wikimedia

    The prosecutor’s office of Halle-Vilvoorde has confirmed it is investigating a case involving two men suspected of having defrauded 94 people, including their own family members, out of a total sum of €7.4 million. The news was originally revealed by Het Laatste Nieuws.

    According to a spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office, the fraud took place in 2012, and an investigation was begun in 2016 following a complaint from a victim. The crimes took place in and around the Halle-Vilvoorde area.

    One of the suspects is a former director of the Affligem brewery, which was sold to the Dutch brewing group Heineken. The man told his victims he wanted to buy back the brewery in order to claim a bequest from a cousin consisting of real estate properties in Canada. He approached his victims, among them family members including his own children, promising them a rapid return of 5% on any money they could advance him for the buy-back.

    The victims, needless to say, never saw any of their money back. The victims also included monks from the abbeys of Affligem (pictured) and Grimbergen. It remains unclear what happened to the millions of euros involved.

    The second suspect is reported to have been previously convicted for a fraud scheme involving expensive wines and antiques.

    Affligem brewery in Opwijk in Flemish Brabant was created in about 1790 and known as Brouwerij De Smedt until it was taken over by Alken-Maes, a subsidiary of the Dutch giant Heineken, in 2008, when it was given the name of the nearby abbey as a marketing issue.

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times