One Year Ago — Brussels, Den of Spies [The European Capital is a playground for spies]

“Belgium may seem an unlikely destination for a Chinese agent. In fact, it’s a den of spies, according to domestic intelligence agency State Security (VSSE). It says the number of operatives is at least as high as during the Cold War, and Brussels is their chessboard.”

How Belgium Became Europe’s Den of Spies and a Gateway for China — Bloomberg (November 28 2019)

December 1st 2019 — Belgium has clearly become Europe’s den of spies. Not convinced? Let us take a quick look at a few events that occurred in recent days. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

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“Brussels has now overtaken Vienna when it comes to the density of so-called intelligence services from outside the EU.”

Peter Gridling — Head of Austria’s domestic intelligence agency (June 2018)

UPDATE (December 1st 2020) — What a difference a year makes. Until recently, Main Stream Media rarely discussed the issue of Espionage in Brussels. Chinese espionage was a taboo subject among Belgian politicians and Intelligence agencies. No more…

On May 15 2020, French newspaper Le Monde reported that Chinese spies have been using the embassy of Malta to spy on the European commission’s headquarters in Brussels.

The Belgium’s homeland security service was apparently tipped off by British spooks.

A spokesman for the Belgian Intelligence Agency confirmed the ongoing investigation into the activities at the Maltese embassy but added that no proof of espionage by China had come to light.

“The Chinese were involved in the renovation of the Dar Malta embassy building in 2007, and that caught our attention – without being alerted to it by any foreign service,” the spokesman told De Morgen newspaper.

“But there has never been any evidence that Chinese espionage has taken place from inside the building.”

China is suspected to use the building, located just in front of the EU institutions, to eavesdrop on EU institutions with sophisticated equipment. Does “microwave spying” ring a bell?

In September 2020, Fraser Cameron — a former British diplomat and ex MI6 spook — was accused  of passing information to Chinese spies posing as journalist.

Mr Cameron is the current director of EU-Asia Centre. He also worked at the European Commission for 14 years.

Although Mr Cameron dismisses the accusations, the Belgian Intelligence Agency (VSSE) is certain that he works as a spy for China.

Both British and Belgian intelligence agencies have been tracking Mr Cameron for a long time and they have concluded that he was paid by China to supply information on EU institutions.

In October 2020, Belgium Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne acknowledged that Chinese espionage is “very topical and real”.

Jaak Raes, the current administrator-general of the state security service, asked Van Quickenborne to allocate adequate resources to fight Chinese espionage.

Incidentally, we learned that not one Belgian agent has been working on this issue for at least 5 years — This probably means NEVER — as all resources are allocated to fight terrorism.

According to POLITICO, spies flock to Brussels like bees to a honeypot. [Belgium’s spy problem]

Why? Short answer. Lots of targets and very little to fear.

With 127 diplomatic postings, Brussels hosts the most diplomatic missions in the world, according to the Global Diplomacy Index of the Lowy Institute. The presence of the EU institutions and NATO headquarters makes Belgium relevant not just for diplomats, journalists and lobbyists, but also for international espionage.

But despite the high levels of interest in the Belgian capital, both Belgian and EU authorities say it is difficult for them to punish those caught spying and attempts to tighten the rules have failed.

In Belgium, espionage in itself is not classified as a crime. Belgian law only stipulates you are committing a crime if you communicate classified information of key national interest to a hostile or foreign power. The provisions date back to the 1930’s.

PS — One year ago, I concluded this post with the following comments.

What will it take for Belgian people to realize that we are living very dangerous times and we need serious politicians and serious politics right now?

On October 27 2018, I wrote that it may be impossible to form a Belgian Federal government following the May 2019 general elections.

And here we are… Half a year later, Belgium has no Federal Government. Considering the clear and present danger of terrorism and espionage, this situation is simply irresponsible.

Already in October 2018, I warned that things could go really wrong if the country is hit by a disaster when nobody is at the helm. And this is exactly what happened! Belgium has the worst statistics regarding COVID-19.

RELATED POST: COVID-19 — Why has Belgium the highest death rate in the world? [UPDATE III : Richard Horton (The Lancet) : “The Belgian political system has failed.”]

Richard Horton is the editor-in-chief of the very prestigious scientific medical journal “The Lancet”.  And he does not mince his words about the Belgian political system.

“Most of the 14,000 deaths linked to the coronavirus in Belgium could have been avoided.”

“Your political system has failed”, declared this Monday Richard Horton, virtually invited to the Committee responsible for evaluating the second wave of Covid-19 in Belgium.

If the European countries are housed in the same boat, the editor-in-chief mainly points the finger at Belgium.

“This typical Belgian system has done nothing good. People have died because of the political organization. You have to think about it .”

I hope to find the time to write a series on the work Intelligence agencies did, or not, during this pandemic. This series will demonstrate deep cultural differences among the world top intelligence services. Stay tuned!

END of UPDATE

This week, Alan Crawford and Peter Martin penned an excellent piece titled: How Belgium Became Europe’s Den of Spies and a Gateway for China.

I am of course delighted that MSM are finally paying some attention to the growing concern of espionage in the European capital.

But let us be clear about one thing. This issue is far worse than reported. Allow me to review just a few cases that surfaced in recent days. Obviously, one could run a blog dedicated to Brussels as a den of spies.

In early October 2019, the Chinese director of the Confucius Institute at the VUB Brussels University was barred from entering the EU’s passport-free Schengen area for eight years after being accused of espionage. [This case is about trade secrets from US and European aviation and aerospace companies.]

On October 25 2019, it was reported that a Belgian court has begun the first of what could be multiple trials against spies of Colombia’s former intelligence agency DAS accused of undermining human rights organizations in Europe.

According to newspaper El Espectador, Venezuelan citizen Patricia Betancourt is facing slander charges over her alleged participation in “Operation Europe” between 2003 and 2005.

This intelligence operation reportedly sought to “neutralize the European judicial system” through smear campaigns, and allegedly the illegal wiretapping of the European Parliament in Brussels and human rights organizations, according to Colombia’s prosecution. (…)

According to leaked intelligence documents, Operation Europe was the brainchild of former DAS director Jorge Noguera, who was personally appointed by Uribe in 2002 and later convicted for murder.

Uribe’s intelligence chief, a close ally of paramilitary organization AUC, had an “obsession,” according to El Espectador: spying on all human rights organizations that were informing European politicians about state ties to death squads. [Colombia Report]

On November 22 2019, Belgian media — Le Soir and De Morgen — reported that Belgian National Security has confirmed that Rwandan intelligence services are actively engaged in Belgium attempting to weaken what is perceived as a political threat from the opposition to Paul Kagame’s regime.

On November 29 2019, three man were sentenced for espionage. They were monitoring Bota Jardemalie, a Kazak lawyer who has the status of political refugee in Belgium. Two of the three men are former Stasi agents.

“I contacted Belgian authorities after a threat: ‘the Kazakhs hired people to either kidnap you or ‘turn you into a vegetable’. Police took my case seriously & opened an investigation that foiled a kiddnaping plot before I got harmed. So, all compliments to @federalepolitie!”

Obviously, Brussels is a playground for spies! And why not? In March 2019, it was revealed that Jaak Raes — the head of the Belgian State Security Service [VSSE] since April 1 2014 — believes that it is not the task of his agency to monitor the activities of foreign services on the Belgian territory when their espionage is not directed against the interests of Belgium. Go figure…

And let us not forget that a municipality of Brussels is also a safe heaven to Islamic terrorists. This week, we learned that Oussama Attar, although presumed dead, is indicted as the mastermind of the Paris attack. [The trial is set for 2021.]

I remind you that Attar received considerable support from Belgian politicians.

As I have explained long ago, it is very clear that both the Paris and Brussels attacks would not have occurred if some Belgian politicians had not moved Heaven and Earth to obtain the release of Oussama Atar from an Iraqi jail.

RELATED POST: Paris & Brussels Attacks — Q&A About Oussama Atar in the Belgian Parliament (UPDATE)

At the very least, you would think that these politicians would be sanctioned by the election process.

Not in Brussels. The main organizer of the demonstration to free Atar — has actually been re-elected!

What will it take for Belgian people to realize that we are living very dangerous times and we need serious politicians and serious politics right now?

On October 27 2018, I wrote that it may be impossible to form a Belgian Federal government following the May 2019 general elections.

RELATED POST: F-35 — Quick Note on the Corruption of NATO Governments

And here we are… Half a year later, Belgium has no Federal Government. Considering the clear and present danger of terrorism and espionage, this situation is simply irresponsible.

REFERENCES

How Belgium Became Europe’s Den of Spies and a Gateway for China — Bloomberg Cyber security

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Brussels, Den of Spies — The European Capital is a playground for spies

One Year Ago — Brussels, Den of Spies [The European Capital is a playground for spies]

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