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14 Antwerp lawyers questioned in drugs investigation

14 Antwerp lawyers have been questioned as suspects in connection with a major investigation into a big drug-trafficking gang centred on a family from Mechelen (Antwerp Province).

Last year police raided 37 premises as part of a drugs investigation that had been underway for 18 months.  25 people were detained and 18 of them were subsequently arrested.

The drug traffickers employed drug couriers, who serviced the Ternat, Opwijk, Buggenhout and Lebbeke areas.  Hotel rooms were also used as HQs.  During the raids mobile phones, luxury watches, cars and weapons were all seized.  The gang is also said to have paid the fees of lawyers representing gang members, who were incarcerated.

So far none of the lawyers questioned have been officially identified as suspects.  Their exact role also remains unclear.

In a separate case a judge in Antwerp yesterday sentenced leading Antwerp lawyer Pol Vandemeulebroucke to 18 months in jail on account of membership of a criminal gang.  Vandemeulebroucke was linked to several members of a drugs gang in a relationship that went beyond what is professionally acceptable.  The lawyer performed services for the gang like checking whether police had seized shipments of cocaine.  He was also remunerated for these services.

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