Tuesday, 9 January 2007

When princes are brought to court

The Belgian - and mainly the Flemish - press reported last weeks that prince Laurent - who's a son of the present Belgian King Albert II, but not the crown prince - could be involved in a case of fraud. After Noël Vaessen, the former adviser of the prince, declared that the prince renovated his residence in Tervuren (near Brussels) on charge of the Belgian army, upheaval was caused in the Belgian press. To his opinion, it was a certain Marc Luypaerts, who lives in the province of Limburg and worked at the Belgian navy, and arranged the renovations of the prince's house and some of his chambers in the royal palace in Brussels.

Meanwhile, the public prosecutor of Hasselt (which is the main city of Limburg) requested a trial at Hasselt's (lower) court in order to clarify this case. Yesterday, this trial started its first day. And it will be a very unusual trial, because the prince himself will come to testimony about the things he knows, and the things he doesn't know. But Mr Vaessen - who's also an official in the Belgian army - must certainly regret his declarations in the press, because the judge found him guilty of collaring almost €2 million, and letting it through to Mr Luypaerts, who's already mentioned above. €300,000 of this amount was used to do the renovation works at the prince's rooms.

The crucial question now is whether or not prince Laurent is involved in this fraud case. According to Mr Vaessen and large parts of the public opinion he is, but according to other sources he isn't. We'll have to wait for the verdict to know.

But if the prince is involved - and if he would have an active role in it, it would be even worse - into this case, than it's an insult towards the Belgian (i.e. mostly Flemish) taxpayer. Since the Salic Law (which still refers to the famous law of the beginning of the 6th century) is abolished in Belgium, female royals could also inherit the Belgian throne. As a result, prince Laurent is ranked 11th to follow the present king and his father Albert II. Nevertheless, Laurent is granted an annual fee of 272.682,88 euro. Pity to live with such an embarrassingly little income, isn't it? Well, thanks to the taxpayer this amount is indexated every year. This means that the prince gets €312,000 this year. For doing... well, nothing in fact.

It isn't the first time that prince Laurent can't make ends meet with his small pittance. Last summer, the prince was about to sell two pictures of his new-born children to a gossip magazine for the price of €15,000. It were a better solution if the prince has to work for his money, like any other citizen. Or like his royal fellows in The Netherlands, where only the Dutch head of state (at present time Queen Beatrix) , the crown prince and his spouse get a fee by the state.

And even a better solution is a complete abolishment of this royal comedy. It is often said that the royal family is one of the only things that still binds Belgium together, and since it would be a better thing for both Flemings as Walloons to untie the Belgian knot, we can't wait to see the royals searching for another country to rule.

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