Former Mechelen Councillor Melikan Kucam among 10 suspects to stand trial for people smuggling
Antwerp magistrates have ruled that the former Mechelen City Councillor Melikan Kucam and 9 other suspects must stand trial for people smuggling, passive corruption and membership of a criminal organisation. Mr Kucam was arrested on suspicion of, in exchange for payment, having arranged for Syrian Christians to be given humanitarian visas.
Melikan Kucam was detained for questioning early last year while he was still a city councillor for the Flemish nationalist party N-VA. He also worked as a confident of the former Federal Secretary of State responsible for asylum and migration Theo Francken (Flemish nationalist). Mr Kucam passed on the names of Syrian Christian that he said should be considered for a humanitarian visa to Mr Francken’s office.
However, it is alleged that he requested money from those hoping to be granted a humanitarian visa in order for them to be put on the list. The affair was the subject of an edition of VRT News’ investigative documentary programme Pano.
The organisation around Melikan Kucam is suspected of having sold 219 humanitarian visas in this way. 96 of these didn’t remain in Belgium even though this was one of the conditions to them having been granted a visa.
In addition to Melikan Kucam 7 other men and 2 women will also stand trial. They include Mr Kucam wife and son. Currently none of the suspects are in custody.
The investigation into the alleged offences has lasted almost two years. The trial is likely to get under way before the end of the summer. If found guilty the suspects risk up to 15 years in jail and fines of 150,000 euro per person that they sold a visa to.