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Mysterious burglaries hit former lead Qatargate investigator


Michel Claise, the former investigating judge in the Qatargate scandal before recusing himself, seems to be in the crosshairs of burglars.

On January 9 Claise made the surprise announcement he will run in the Belgian elections which coincide with the European elections in June.

This announcement was preceded by a burglary. On January 8, several laptops were stolen from the offices of Défi, his chosen party, in Saint-Gilles, a Brussels neighbourhood.

According to the party president’s chief of cabinet, the burglary was suspicious. He claims that multiple factors point to more than just the theft of a few laptops.

When speaking to news website La Capitale, he associated the incident with the appearance of investigating judge Michel Claise at the party.

The burglar is said to have destroyed a glass door “with violence”, presumably with a crowbar. The thief must have sped upstairs, it is claimed, to grab multiple laptops, without bothering to take the matching chargers.

“One wonders about the motives of a person who takes such risks for such a small booty. The damage it has caused is much more expensive than the price of computers.”

Police officers, who arrived quickly on the scene, noted that the burglar or burglars were willing to take significant risks by destroying the glass rather than forcing the latch.

A source within Défi suggested a link between the burglary and a recent break-in at Michel Claise’s home.

“At best, it’s a thief,” the group says. “That’s part of city life, we can’t do anything about it.”

But the unusual elements of the burglary, and the fact that there was an earlier theft at Claise’s home, make some suspect something fishy.

One source said the burglary could be the work of “a person who hopes… to intimidate Michel Claise. Given his previous position [as investigating judge], it’s easy to imagine that people would hold a grudge against him.”

Claise is known for several high profile anti-corruption cases including the Panama Papers, the Swissleaks and the Football Leaks. Qatargate, a case he also led, looks on the other hand to have become bogged down. Claise had to recuse himself over his relations with Marie Arena, a Belgian Socialist MEP, and her son, before retiring as a magistrate at the beginning of this year.

Speaking on RTL on January 10, Michel Claise said, “When I was a magistrate, I was like a boxer with my hands tied in a ring. Today, my hands are untied and I can tell you that the response will be terrible compared to the defamation that could still come out.”

“Welcome to politics”, the TV interviewer said.