1981 - 1991 : FORWARD TO VICTORY
THE BELGIAN STRATEGY OF TENSION
A 1981 report by the Sûreté de l'Etat makes it clear that the Belgian members of AESP\MAUE who had been implicated in the rumours of a planned coup in 1973 had not given up hope. The Sûreté report dated 11th May, 1981 was submitted by Justice Minister Philippe Moureaux to the Wijninckx Committee, a Senate committee investigating the extreme Right and their private armies (385). The report revealed that leading members of CEPIC, including Paul Vankerkhoven, BBernard Mercier and Benoît de Bonvoisin (now running MAUE after Damman's death in 1979), had been funding two extreme right-wing groups also implicated in the 1973 coup plans: the Front de la Jeunesse, a major Belgian fascist group run by Francis Dossogne and Paul Latinus, and the Nouvel Europe Magazine, edited by Emile Lecerf. Lecerf and Dossogne had represented Belgium at the 1975 gathering of European fascists at de Bonvoisin's castle. The Sûreté report further revealed de Bonvoisin's continued financial support for Bougerol and the PIO publication Inforep, Bougerol's rôle as a speaker at NEM Club events and his close links with Bernard Mercier of the CEPIC Board.
The NEM Clubs, composed of readers of Lecerf's Nouvel Europe Magazine, had been implicated with Major Bougerol in the 1973 coup plans by the de Cock and Tratsaert reports; the de Cock report had already alluded to the financing of the NEM by VdB and de Bonvoisin in the early 1970s. By the 1980s, the NEM Clubs were also the recruiting pool for the most notorious of the fascist private armies, Westland New Post, headed by former Front chief Paul Latinus. The WNP was far more than a group of rowdies: it appeared to run a full-blown parallel intelligence service with links to the Sûreté; Latinus himself was a major Sûreté informant. The links between the WNP, the Front de la Jeunesse and CEPIC were multiple: besides the funding of the Front and the NEM Clubs disclosed in the 1981 Sûreté report, 1976 CEPIC election candidate Joseph Franz had joined CEPIC straight from the Front.
Former CEPIC President Jean-Pierre Grafé appealed directly to the Front for help with his election campaign. Front billstickers ensured CEPIC's election poster coverage - when they couldn't cope, the WNP's poster team filled the gap. Lecerf published appeals to vote for CEPIC in his Nouvel Europe Magazine. A 1983 Sûreté report repeated allegations by WNP members that Bernard Mercier of the CEPIC Board was also a regional representative/inspector of the WNP. The WNP had been infiltrated by Commissioner Christian Smets of the Surêté, after Smets's superior, Chief Commissioner Victor Massart, had recruited WNP leader Latinus as a Sûreté informant (386). Massart appointed Smets as Latinus's case officer, and Latinus duly introduced Smets into the group as "the Duck", a sympathizer from the Sûreté. To prove his good faith, after checking with headquarters, Smets gave the WNP lessons in surveillance and counter-surveillance.
In February 1982, in the middle of Smets's training course, WNP militants used their newly-gained knowledge to stalk and then kill two people. The arrest of the WNP militants and the confession of the killer, Latinus's lieutenant Marcel Barbier, brought Smets's "membership" of the WNP to light by 1983, whereupon the establishment and left-wing Press had a field day. It was clear that a serving Sûreté officer had been caught red-handed training a fascist private army guilty of a double murder. The uproar was enormous, leaving the Sûreté compromised and Smets accused of being a fascist sympathizer colluding with the WNP through political conviction.
Fired on by the Press and by de Bonvoisin, Smets could only weakly claim to have been following orders from his Sûreté superior Massart who was in the front ranks of his attackers, proclaiming Smets had acted totally without authority. Smets was condemned on all sides; even the NEM and other fascist publications vociferously joined in, covering Brussels with posters reading "Sûreté assassin!". With hindsight and later information, the situation looks radically different: it now appears that the WNP scandal was the successful culmination of an operation to sabotage Sûreté investigations into de Bonvoisin's patronage of fascist groups.
The operation was as effective as it was ingenious: Smets, whose investigations posed a real threat to de Bonvoisin, Bougerol and the extreme Right, was tarred with the fascist brush and publicly vilified. With Smets disgraced and his team closed down as a result of the WNP scandal, the investigations into the links between de Bonvoisin, Bougerol and the fascist militias came to an end. If collusion there was between the Sûreté and the WNP, it was between Massart and Latinus with the aim of compromising Smets. Later investigations into Gladio and PIO revealed that Massart, Smets's superior, had been the principal contact in the Sûreté for VdB/de Bonvoisin's intelligence chief, Bougerol.
Massart gave open access to Sûreté files for Bougerol and his team. Smets's enquiries were a threat not only to CEPIC and the NEM Clubs, but also to Massart. Bougerol's visits were no secret at the Square de Meeûs (Sûreté headquarters); after it could no longer be overlooked that PIO had officially been closed down, Massart's cooperation with Bougerol continued via Bougerol's secretary, Mirèze Legon, who regularly visited Massart to view Sûreté files. To deflect criticism, Massart had informed his colleagues that Legon no longer worked with Bougerol; Smets, though, working on the de Bonvoisin/Bougerol/NEM triangle, had Legon followed from Massart's office to ... the PIO military branch office. With the discovery of Massart's ongoing illegal cooperation with PIO, Smets was simply getting too close for comfort.
It will come as no surprise to learn that the WNP leader Paul Latinus" committed suicide" in April 1984 as the WNP scandal gathered pace. Opinions remain divided about whether the suicide was arranged or not. Latinus could have been a key witness not just in the WNP case but also in a vice scandal that hit the headlines at the same time as the May, 1981 Sûreté report on CEPIC's links to the NEM. Shortly before dying, Latinus had referred to a file that was his "insurance policy" - a dossier compromising top politicians in a vice ring: the Pinon file. Dr. Pinon's wife ran a child vice ring in which VdB and other right-wing notables were allegedly compromised. In early 1981, details of the ring reached Lecerf who wrote an article; perhaps not surprisingly in view of his connections, Lecerf never published the piece. Lecerf may have been the source for Latinus's file. In mid-June, 1981, Dr. Pinon gave details of the ring to the left-wing magazine Pour, which had originally exposed de Bonvoisin's fascist connections.
Pour's editor, Jean-Claude Garot, was preparing to go into print when he received a phone call from a lawyer attempting to prevent publication: Garot refused. Ten days later, the premises of Pour were burnt to the ground by a joint commando group from the Front de la Jeunesse/WNP and the Flemish fascist group VMO. Garot never identified the lawyer who phoned him by name, but did reveal that it was "a lawyer from the extreme Right, a member of MAUE". A subsequent detailed study of the Pour case stated that the lawyer was Vincent Vanden Bosch, a close associate of the late Florimond Damman's and longstanding member of the Permanent Delegation of the AESP who served with de Bonvoisin as a Board member of MAUE (387). Van den Bosch would later figure in the WNP trials as counsel for WNP killer Michel Barbier.
THE BRABANT WALLON KILLERS
The involvement of AESP\CEPIC members with the extreme Right may tie into the most notorious of Belgian parapolitical affairs - the "Brabant Wallon killers", a gang of alleged "bandits" who specialized in holding up supermarkets with maximum violence and minimum loot, killing 28 people between 1982 and 1985. The theory that the killers were motivated by criminal gain – an idea pushed hard by the Belgian Justice Ministry - was demolished by the wanton killing of unarmed and unresisting shoppers, the highly professional and military approach taken to the attacks, and the provocative tactics employed: on one occasion, having needlessly gunned down several people and seized takings of only several thousand Euros, the killers sat in the supermarket car-park to calmly await the arrival of the police before making good their getaway.
Such provocation, together with the concentration of their attacks in one limited area (the Brabant Wallon), even to the extent of driving directly from one attack to hit another supermarket only ten miles away, all pointed to a strategy of tension with political motivations rather than to organized crime. The multiple investigations into the Brabant Wallon killings have thrown up considerable evidence that points to the authors of the attacks being extreme rightwing sympathizers within the ranks of the Gendarmerie.
One of the actions of the killers was to break into a warehouse and steal prototype bulletproof vests, whose existence was only known to the Gendarmerie and a handful of ballistic experts. It also became clear that those carrying out the supermarket attacks must have had intimate knowledge of the tactics called "Practical Shooting", a preserve shared by the Diane group, the Gendarmerie's anti-terrorist unit, and a series of private "Practical Shooting Clubs" dominated by the extreme Right.
Some of the weapons used in connected attacks had been "stolen" from the barracks of the Diane group on New Year's Eve, 1981-82. In 1989, sensational allegations about Gendarmerie involvement in the killings were made by Martial Lekeu, a former member of the Diane Group and also of the Gendarmerie's political intelligence section, the BSR. Lekeu alleged that in the mid-1970s he was recruited into a secret neo-nazi organization within the Gendarmerie, Group G. The Gendarmerie officer who recruited him was Didier Miévis, a BSR member and recruiter for the Front de la Jeunesse within the Gendarmerie (388).
Lekeu claimed that the two external controllers of Group G were Francis Dossogne and Paul Latinus, heads of the Front. Lekeu's first contact with Group G was during a Front meeting held in Latinus's house; Latinus was Lekeu's next-door neighbour. From 1975 onwards, the Front and Group G, together with a corresponding group in the Army, Group M, planned a coup d'état to bring CEPIC to power. At this time, Vanden Boeynants was President of CEPIC and Belgian Defence Minister, the supervisory authority for the Gendarmerie. The 1981 Sûreté report reveals that during this period VdB and de Bonvoisin were giving substantial funding to Dossogne and Latinus for the Front.
Lekeu alleged: "When I joined the Gendarmerie, I was a convinced fascist. I got to know people in the Diane group who shared my opinions. We used to exchange the Nazi salute. Every time we smacked our heels together in the canteen or in the corridors of the BSR headquarters, we heard others doing the same. It was a sign of brotherhood ... during the Front meetings, a plan was developed to destabilize Belgium and prepare for an authoritarian regime. This plan was divided into two stages: a phase of political terrorism and a phase of gangsterism. I worked on the second phase. I was one of the specialists who would train the young people in extreme Right ideology; we had to turn them into a group of individuals that were ready for anything. Then, I should break off all contact with them so that they would become a completely autonomous group who would commit armed raids without being aware that they were part of a perfectly planned plot".
The Intelligence section of the BSR were well aware of Group G's activities: according to a BSR report drawn up by Chief Adjutant Tratsaert in October 1976, the BSR had several of Group G's documents, and had infiltrated some of their meetings, photographing the group's members. The 1976 report confirms Lekeu's claim that Dossogne was a member of the group. Lekeu stated that he left Group G when they started committing the Brabant killings; a 1985 BSR report by Agent Bihay declared that Group G included at least one other gendarme closely linked to the killings: Madani Bouhouche, who was also a member of the WNP. Lekeu further claimed that Group G was behind the 1981 theft of Group Diane's weapons: certainly, Bouhouche was seen in the Diane barracks on the day of the robbery and used one of the Gendarmerie's vans taken later that night by the thieves.
According to Lekeu, Group G was not only responsible for carrying out the Brabant killings, but also for launching earlier attempted assassinations which targeted Gendarmerie colleagues whose investigations into fraud scandals linked to VdB were getting too close to the truth. Lekeu specifically mentioned the 1981 attack on Gendarmerie Major Herman Vernaillen as a Group G operation. Vernaillen had certainly been treading on toes: besides investigating VdB's links to financial and drug scandals, Vernaillen had been following up indications of VdB's involvement in coup plots. In May 1989, Vernaillen declared that in 1980 the Brussels banker and CEPIC member, Leo Finné, had informed him of a planned coup d'état in the 1980s which involved several senior figures in Opus Dei and a former Minister.
Finné was in a position to know: it has subsequently emerged that he was involved with VdB in one of the planned coups in 1973. In a confidential report, Vernaillen gave further details and named participants in the 1980s plot as CEPIC President VdB, former Deputy Prime Minister and CEPIC member José Desmarets (in 1986-87, President of WACL, whose Belgian section LIL had worked closely with Damman), State Prosecutor Raymond Charles, former Gendarmerie General Fernand Beaurir, ex-Chief of General Staff Lieutenant-General Georges Vivario (389) and CEPIC member Jean Militis, a paratroop colonel implicated in the rumours of a planned coup in 1973.
Vernaillen's allegations were backed up in November 1989 by the testimony before the Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry from another Gendarmerie officer, Chief Adjutant Dussart, who confirmed the names of the participants in the 1980s plot and stated that several of the 1980s plotters had also been involved in the 1973 plans for a coup: the de Cock and Tratsaert reports had detailed the NEM Clubs' involvement in the 1973 plans and named CEPIC members VdB and de Bonvoisin.
Whilst some figures in CEPIC appear to have been the beneficiaries of the strategy of tension, others were definitely its victims. As Hugo Gijsels points out, closer examination of some of the people murdered by the Brabant killers during their attacks throws up a remarkable series of coincidences. Several people were coldly executed with bullets to the head, in contrast to the shooting in the supermarkets that claimed most victims. Amongst those executed in September-October 1983 were three CEPIC members: Elise Dewit and Jacques Fourez, a business contact of VdB's, and Jacques van Camp, innkeeper of the "Auberge des Trois Canards", a favourite haunt for VdB, General Beaurir, Dewit and Fourez. In October 1985, the killers claimed an even more significant victim amongst the ranks of CEPIC: banker Leo Finné, Vernaillen's informant, the first person killed in the raid on the Delhaize supermarket in Overijse.
This is a very brief summary of an extremely complex series of events, and although much remains unknown, it is clear that those who gravitated in the AESP\Cercle Pinay environment were closely linked both to the rumoured plans for a coup in 1973 and to the Belgian strategy of tension in the 1980s. Certain parallels can be drawn to two previous cases of a strategy of tension: Italy from 1969 onwards and Portugal in 1975-76. In all three countries, the beneficiary of the strategy of tension was a Cercle Pinay contact - Andreotti, Spinola and Vanden Boeynants.
In all three cases, the operational experience in running a strategy of tension came from Aginter Press, Stefano delle Chiaie and fascist militants in the ranks of the local police and Army. The most promising avenue for investigation to understand the coup plots and strategy of tension in Belgium in the 1970s and 1980s lies no doubt in exploring contacts between Aginter Press and the AESP. It is significant that Damman, Lecerf and Guérin-Sérac met only two years before Lecerf's NEM made its first appeal for a coup d'état - at the beginning of its long and close relationship with de Bonvoisin and VdB. Belgian justice has been notably timid in its investigations, and a full exposure of those behind these events will probably never come, but as one of the top police investigators working on the Brabant killings said about the sniffer plane scandal:
"If you're looking for the motives behind the killings in the Brabant, start by understanding the motives behind that gigantic swindle."
Bron » “Rogue Agents, the Cercle Pinay complex 1951-1991” van David Teacher