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Filip Dewinter, Vlaams Belang member (centre). Photo supplied
Antwerp

Vlaams Belang member threatened with loss of immunity after tweet

Flemish Member of Parliament Filip Dewinter, was criticised last week after his controversial tweet about Moroccan crime gangs. He is even being threatened with the loss of his parliamentary immunity.

Published: July 23, 2018, 9:28 am

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    On Wednesday, Dewinter retweeted a message circulating in the migrant gang sphere, known as the “Mocromaffia” in Belgium. One Moraad El K. is allegedly wanted “alive or dead” for stealing 120 kilos of cocaine and a reward of 100 000 euros will be paid to his captor, the message read.

    Dewinter then said in response: “As long as they finish each other off, I’ll be happy to share this message!” Party chairman Tom Van Grieken of Vlaams Belang defended Dewinter in an interview on Radio 1, saying that he “has no compassion with criminals who finish off each other, on the contrary”.

    Dewinter received a lot of criticism after seemingly supportingly sharing the call for catching the drug thief “alive or dead”. Some even talked about revoking Dewinter’s parliamentary immunity, although it may not be possible, experts told Flemish daily De Morgen.

    Van Grieken supported Dewinter, although he added “[…] I would not tweet such things. It is not my style”.

    Dewinter has now removed his tweet, but Van Grieken thinks “that Filip Dewinter has only said what a lot of people think”. According to the party chairman: “What is the alternative? Are we going to embrace people who throw a handgrenade into a pita cafe, or should I rather say drug den? Such people are better gone than protected.”

    Greens chairwoman Meyrem Almaci, complained that Vlaams Belang would be “responsible for the consequences [if] there are further escalations in the streets of Antwerp”.

    Van Grieken strongly disagreed. “This is the world upside down”, the Vlaams Belang president told the public broadcaster. “Now Vlaams Belang is going to be the cause of migrant criminals making Antwerp unsafe?”

    He also tweeted that Greens member Almaci, who had also been invited by Radio 1, had refused to shake his hand.

    At the end of last year, after a VRT report by Pano, the seriousness of the drug problem in Antwerp was once again highlighted. In 2016, the Flemish port city was mentioned as the largest cocaine port in Europe.

    Immigrant gangs with Moroccan roots – referred to in the Netherlands as “Mocromaffia” – known as the Turtles and the Mixers dominate this lucrative and clandestine trade.

    The “Mocromaffia” is closely intertwined with various Islamic prayer houses, but also has a strong footing in migrant youth culture, where it draws young adults – mostly from ethnic minorities – into the drug world. The conflicts between the gangs lead to violent settlements with nail bombs, grenades and shootings.

    Vlaams Belang had long voiced suspicions about Islamic mosques linked to criminal gangs, as a result of the “lively” Antwerp drug trade. The VRT program Pano noted in their report that mosques were receiving the earnings from gangs. “There are various mosques in Antwerp that receive monthly donations from the drug world”, Pano reporter Stefaan Meerbergen explained.

    There is little hard evidence, given the difficulty of the research. But Meerbergen cites “very reliable sources” showing that drug money goes to mosques both in the Netherlands and in Belgium.

    “In Antwerp in particular [there are] mosques […] that receive drug money every month”, explained VRT journalist Meerbergen. “Some mosques do not even apply for recognition because, with an acknowledgment, control must be exercised over the financing of these mosques and then the whole thing has to be opened up”.

    The Pano reportage also investigated mosques in their search for drug trafficking in Antwerp. However, it is not included in the report “because [the drug connection] is very hard to make,” it concluded. “But you hear very clearly that there are mosques where people preach very hard against drugs, and others where there is no preaching against drugs at all”.

    Following the plans for a mega mosque in Antwerp’s Seefhoek, Dewinter warned at the end of November that there were persistent rumors that certain events associated with mosques are being used by Moroccan drug gangs to launder money.

    The port of Antwerp is the second largest port in Europe, after that of Rotterdam. In Rotterdam, mainly liquid goods are delivered, while in Antwerp mainly containers arrive. These containers lend themselves perfectly to the smuggling of large quantities of drugs. Moreover, the port of Antwerp has a direct connection with the United States.

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