The trial is due to begin on Monday of no fewer than 81 accused members of the co-called Modest clan, an organised crime gang accused of a massive operation of fake car sales.
The gang was broken up in May 2019, in an operation that involved 1,200 officers of the federal police in Brussels, Charleroi and France. Police took possession of 90 caravans, 91 cars, 34 buildings, jewellery, 23 luxury watches and €1 million, as well as a number of firearms.
The scam worked like this: the gangsters would approach the sellers of cars and offer to buy. On the spot, they would appear to pay the cost via an app. While the app appeared to work, days later the seller would find that in fact no money had changed hands. By that time, the car was long gone.
According to the police, hundreds of victims fell into the trap, and by the time the fraud was revealed, and no money had been paid, the car itself had been exported to another country in Eastern Europe or Africa.
The Nato site was previously the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the home to representatives and staff of the 30 nations making up the defence treaty group. However, the organisation has now moved to the other side of the road, and more commodious premises specially built for the purpose.
The existing site now lies empty, but is intended to house the trial of those accused of being involved in the terrorist attacks on the Brussels Airport and Brussels metro in March 2016. Because of the numbers involved, both of accused and civil parties, a site had to be found to allow everyone access, and the Nato site was readily available.
That trial is still in preparation, but in the meantime, the space provided can be used for another massive trial involving 81 accused and their lawyers.
“The entire trial will take three months,” said Eric Van Duysse, spokesperson for the federal prosecutor, who is responsible for organised crime prosecutions. “Four sessions will be held every week.”
The Brussels Times
Correction: This story has been updated to clarify that NATO has 30 members.