Filip Dewinter, parliamentary leader of the far-right Vlaams Belang, has denied regular meetings with a man suspected of being a Chinese spy. The Brussels prosecutor-general’s office is investigating the allegation, revealed this week by Het Laatste Nieuws. The paper reports that Dewinter acted as a consultant to a non-profit organisation, the European Chinese Cultural and Educational Foundation (ECCEF), which the State Security agency has long suspected of carrying out espionage on behalf of the Beijing government.
ECCEF receives support from the Chinese government, but was mainly busy organising cultural events attended by business people and politicians. Dewinter, the paper reports, received only expenses. It is also alleged he once helped organise a meeting with a director of the federal police, on behalf of the organisation.
He also travelled to Beijing, had dinner with the Uzbekistan ambassador and spent five days in Kazakhstan, all at the ECCEF’s expense. De Winter has denied any connection with alleged espionage, claiming that he “always acted in good faith”.
On the question of whether he had been recruited as a spy, De Winter mocked the very idea. “Me, the pariah of Belgian politics since forever? That’s a good joke.” Speaking of the man at ECCEF with whom he had regular contact, he said, “If that man was a spy, then I’m James Bond.”
He admitted to having travelled to China “about four times” for cultural events, as well as one trip to Kazakhstan for a conference.
“Travel and other costs I had to incur were, logically enough, reimbursed or paid by ECCEF,” he said. “I never received any sort of payment or reimbursement of expenses.”
He has now lodged a complaint with the I Committee, the independent body that investigates complaints against the intelligence services.