A senior member of the Belgian royal family may give evidence in court as part of a huge embezzlement inquiry involving the country’s navy. King Albert II has lifted immunity from his youngest son, 43-year-old Prince Laurent. Its alleged 175,000 euros of the two million allegedly taken from Navy funds in the 1990s paid for work at one of Laurent’s residences, as well as at an animal sanctuary. The Prince claims he did not know the money had been misappropriated.
The trial of the 15 accused, all former officers or businessmen, is due to begin today. One of them is Colonel Noel Vaessen, the Prince’s former adviser. “The case is a sham,” he told reporters. “The evidence has been made up and not gathered like genuine evidence. I don’t want to draw attention to Prince Laurent, I just want people to listen to what I say.”
The monarch’s role in Belgium is largely ceremonial but the royal family itself is seen by both the Flemish and French-speaking Walloon communities as a symbol of unity. But that has not prevented some from trying to make political capital out of this investigation. There has already been a call for a parliamentary commission to investigate the Prince’s financial affairs during the 1990s.