Belgian Education Minister of the French-speaking community Caroline Desir (R) reacts at the start of an European Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council in Brussels, Belgium, 23 November 2023. EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET


50 bags of cocaine found at office of Belgian education minister


A large stash of cocaine was found in the offices of the Walloon Minister of Education, Caroline Désir of the socialist party (PS). A senior staffer was allegedly involved in drug trafficking.

Additionally, €10,000 in cash were seized from him. A police investigation is ongoing and the suspected drugs trafficker is locked up in the prison of Haren.

The arrested man is said to be the son of Fadila Laanan, a former minister and still a socialist parliamentarian in Brussels. Both Désir and Laanan are considered important decision-makers within the Francophone socialist party. They are part of the “club of six” socialists that determine who gets what place on the election lists.

The suspect was in charge of supplies and scheduling while employed in the cabinet’s economy department. When the case was brought to light, he was immediately fired.

The arrest happened in December but only now reached the Belgian press. It was confirmed by the Brussels prosecutor’s office to Brussels Signal.

“A cabinet employee was placed at the disposal of an investigating judge, who suspected him of selling and possessing narcotics; the suspect was placed under arrest”, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

“A total of eight suspects were made available to an investigating judge, who charged them with selling and possessing narcotics in an association. Two of them were released under conditions. The six others were placed under arrest warrant. Their pre-trial detention was confirmed by the chambers.” Because it is an ongoing investigation, no further comments could be given.

Jean-François Mahieux, spokesman of the cabinet, told newspaper La Dernière Heure the specifics of the case.

“On Wednesday evening, 15 December, we were informed that one of our employees had been arrested in a drug trafficking investigation.”

“The next day, the minister initiated dismissal proceedings for breach of trust. We then searched his office on our own initiative and came across the bags of drugs. Our cabinet then contacted a criminal lawyer.”

Mahieux asserts that no extra search was conducted. “We just assisted the detectives. We gave them access to his office and any room he might have utilised on Friday, December 17.”

He says that no further information was found and that nobody else who works there was questioned.

The newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws reported that the suspect’s girlfriend was also questioned by the authorities. She also held a position in the ministerial cabinet of Michel Daerden (PS). The authorities searched the young woman’s office but turned up nothing. She was fired, nonetheless, for “breach of trust”.

The scandal happened just the day before the socialist party’s congress, where who should lead their election list was determined.

Up until recently, Désir was considered to be the front-runner to lead the Brussels list, a place that could make her Minister-President of Brussels in the future.

However, she did not obtain that spot and appeared as the leader of the federal PS list instead. Brussels PS party president and MP Ahmed Laaouej secured the prized Brussels spot.

Laanan is not on any list despite being tipped to take second place in the European elections, but it’s unclear if it has anything to do with her son’s detention.

The socialist party has been the biggest party for close to a decade in Brussels, but now they have dropped to the 4th spot in the polls, behind Communists, Liberals and Greens.

The party has seen many scandals before and the latest one comes at a time when the Belgian capital is suffering under a spate of drug related violence.

Conservatives accuse Left-wing politicians of using their personal cabinets in Brussels to give friends and family well-paying jobs at the taxpayers expense.