Officials Say Vanden Boeynants Threatened Before Kidnap
BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ A former prime minister kidnapped near his home over the weekend had received threats recently, Prime Minister Wilfried Martens said Monday.
Officials disagreed over whether the abduction Saturday of former Prime Minister Paul Vanden Boeynants was political.
About 500 police spent Monday afternoon, without success, searching a 75- acre wood at Baudour, near Mons about 30 miles southwest of Brussels, after an anonymous caller told a radio station Vanden Boeynants’ body was there.
″Mr. Vanden Boeynants had received threats lately and had requested to meet with the interior minister,″ Martens said on BRT, Belgium’s Dutch- language radio network. He did not elaborate.
Interior Minister Louis Tobback told BRT that Vanden Boeynants, 69, had an appointment with him Monday ″to discuss a personal matter.″
Police reported no new leads in their search for Vanden Boeynants, who arrived at the nine-story apartment complex where he lives in a posh Brussels neighborhood shortly before 6 p.m. Saturday, but never entered.
Police found Vanden Boeynants’ car in his garage, and his hearing aid, pipe and a shoe nearby.
Three anonymous telephone callers claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. The daily newspaper Le Soir received a call Saturday and RTBF, Belgium’s French-language radio network, received two calls Sunday.
Sunday’s caller spoke on behalf of a group calling itself the Revolutionary Socialist Brigade. Officials said they had never heard of the group.
It was unclear who called Le Soir. The caller spoke to a night watchman on behalf of a group of ″revolutionary socialists.″
Officials said they were concerned about Vanden Boeynants’ health because he takes heart medicine.
Deputy Brussels prosecutor Andre Vandoren played down the reported threats against Vanden Boeynants.
″We have no elements to say a direct link can be established between the threats″ and his disappearance, Vandoren said. He did not exclude political motives in the abduction.
But Johan Vande Lanotte, an aide to Tobback, said, ″So far the case is a strictly judicial matter. There is nothing to indicate that a truly terrorist act or politically inspired action is involved.″
Carlo Huttisch, an aide to Vanden Boeynants, also ruled out political motives because a formal communique to that effect had been received.
Vanden Boeynants, a Christian Democrat, was prime minister between 1966 and 1968, and again for several months in late 1978 and early 1979. He also was defense minister in several governments in the 1970s.
In 1986, he received a three-year suspended sentence and was fined the equivalent of about $16,850 for tax evasion, forgery and fraud as head of a Brussels meat packing company.
Vanden Boeynants was a Brussels city councilor for just more than 30 years beginning in 1952, and oversaw a drastic urban renewal program that made him the bane of urban conservationists.
He was re-elected city councilor Oct. 9 and then made a bid to become mayor. He abandoned the plan after Martens told him he could not assume the post because of his conviction.
In recent months, Vanden Boeynants has headed a project to develop the Atomium, a giant structure shaped like an iron molecule, that towered over the 1958 world exposition.