Four persons arrested over plot to kidnap Belgian minister Vincent Van Quickenborne

Belgian Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne
Belgian Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne

A fourth man has been arrested following a reported plot to kidnap the Belgian justice minister.

The suspect, a 21-year-old Dutch man, was detained by police in the Netherlands, according to the National Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Three other Dutch men were also arrested in Holland on Friday night.

It comes after a car containing firearms was found outside Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne’s home earlier this week.

The minister has since been placed under tighter police surveillance after a “serious threat”, federal prosecutors said Saturday.

They said they were “informed last week of a possible threat” to the politician’s safety, which had been taken very “seriously”, and launched an investigation.

However, the exact details of the threat was remain unclear. It is widely reported it was an attempted kidnapping, with some Belgian media linking the plot to drug criminals. The prosecutor’s office has not confirmed these details.

Following the arrest of three suspects on Saturday, Mr Van Quickenborne said in a Facebook post that he has been placed under “strict security” and would not be taking part on planned events in the coming days.

He said anyone who works to fight organised crime knows the risks and he will continue to target criminal groups “with more manpower and resources than before”.

“Let me be clear: the people behind this are achieving the opposite of what they intend,” he said. “It strengthens my conviction that we must keep fighting. The criminals feel cornered. That feeling is right.”

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said the threat was “totally unacceptable”, adding that “we will not be intimidated by anyone”.

Police are now trying to extradite the four suspects from the Netherlands.

Investigators were led to the men by the car, which had a Dutch number plate, found outside Mr Van Quickenborne’s home in the Flemish town of Kortrijk.

Belgian news outlet VRT reports that Kalashnikovs, firearms and two bottles of petrol were found in the vehicle outside the house the minister shares with his wife and son.

Belgium has been taking greater steps to combat organised crime in recent weeks by announcing a plan which gives local authorities more power to tackle the violence.

The port city of Antwerp has seen escalating drug violence, with more than 89 tonnes of drugs seized there in 2021.

In a report last year, Europol, the European Union’s police agency, released a report which cited Belgium and the Netherlands as “the epicentre of the cocaine market in Europe”.

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