Dutch real estate magnate arrested in Italy for bribing Belgian cop
Dutch real estate magnate Frank Zweegers was arrested on the Italian island of Capri on Thursday. During a routine check on a number of luxury yachts, the Italian authorities discovered that there was an European arrest warrant against Zweegers, who is wanted in Belgium for bribing a highly placed police officer, the Volkskrant reports.
Zweegers is suspected of paying tens of thousands of euros in bribes to Glen Audenaert, the former head of the Belgian federal judicial police, according to the newspaper. In return for the money, Audenaert lobbied for the federal police's headquarters to be moved to the RAC complex in Brussels in 2013. At the time, the building complex was owned by Breevast - Zweegers' real estate company.
The move of the federal police's headquarters is a very controversial topic in Belgium. The relocation is considered unnecessary by many critics and the renovation of the building was very expensive.
In 2012 Audenaert admitted that he received tens of thousands of euros from Zweegers, who is friends with the former cop's wife. But he maintains that the money was a gift to the couple. Audenaert himself is suspected of forgery, money laundering and passive corruption.
Zweegers denies paying any money to Audenaert. On Monday his spokesperson announced that Zweegers "did not commit any criminal offense in this matter" and "fully cooperated in the investigation of the Belgian judiciary". He also refuted claims in Belgian media that Zweegers refused to meet with Belgian detectives for questioning. "Since 2012 Mr. Zweegers asked three times through his lawyer to be allowed to give a statement with the investigating court, but the Belgian judiciary never responded", the spokesperson said, according to the newspaper. "He is therefore also very surprised by this European arrest warrant."
The 56-year-old real estate magnate was transferred to the Poggioreale prison in Naples, where he is awaiting his extradition to Belgium, according to the Volkskrant.