Sven Pichal (44), one of the most prominent voices on Dutch-speaking radio in Belgium, has been arrested for allegedly owning and distributing images of child abuse.
On August 28, the police executed a search of the VRT radio station building and of Pichal’s office.
In a statement, the station said: “VRT spokesman Bob Vermeir confirms that a house search has taken place. We are not aware of what the house search has yielded. We do not have that information.”
The arrest of Pichal has caused shockwaves within VRT and the public at large, especially as he was seen as a prominent voice for the LGBTQI community.
Pichal was arrested at his home on August 24 and questioned during an investigation into images of child abuse.
His employer was reportedly caught off guard when Pichal submitted his immediate resignation through his lawyer as he had been busy preparing the upcoming season of his very popular show that was scheduled to start on August 31.
In a statement after his resignation, VRT said: “Sven Pichal has decided to resign from VRT for personal reasons. Sven will seek professional guidance and withdraw from public life. Sven will not provide any further comments and wishes to thank everyone who has supported him.”
But soon further details emerged and it became clear Pichal has had to spend time in jail. He was summoned to the investigative judge on August 25, who interrogated him again and, at the request of the prosecutor’s office, detained Pichal.
Some suggest there might be a criminal network involved, and that there is a chance of Pichal trying to flee if let out of detention, among other concerns.
At the moment, Pichal is being hed in prison. Other suspects are also being detained but little is known about the broader investigation.
A decision on whether Pichal will remain behind bars or if he will be released, with or without conditions, will be made on August 30.
Pichal has been in Belgian radio and television for 23 years. He worked with Radio 1, which aims for a more political and news-minded audience, and for Radio 2 on a very popular consumer programme. Since 2018 he also worked on television news programmes.
He was also a public activist and was involved with the LGBTQ organisation Wel Jong Niet Hetero (Young but not Straight) and served as the president of Het Roze Huis (The Pink House) for four years. As a student he also worked for a local radio show Uit de Kast (Out of the Closet) and has contributed to campaigns against bullying. Together with his partner, he has two grown-up foster children.