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Justice minister embroiled in 'pipigate' controversy
Belgium’s justice minister Vincent Van Quickenborne is having to respond to questions concerning his 50th birthday party held this summer after VRT discovered footage of his guests urinating on a police vehicle outside his home.
The police car was present because the minister was under special protection following threats against his life.
According to VRT, footage shows guests urinating against the police car and entering it on three occasions - at 20.39, 22.05 and just after midnight.
VRT also explained that a few hours later, at 4.00, footage showed the minister outside his home, accompanied by a guest, leaning back and pretending to urinate. He was also seen looking at a mobile phone and laughing.
Van Quickenborne has already denied the allegations and provided his own footage of the evening as captured by his home’s surveillance camera system.
According to RTBF, whose reporters were allowed to view the footage, his “leaning back” was not part of pretending to urinate and Van Quickenborne said he had been unaware that the earlier incident even took place at that time.
“Some people infer from this [leaning back pose] that I'm copying what some people did seven hours before – I'm very clear, I didn't know what had happened,” the minister said.
In terms of what he was laughing at on the mobile phone, Van Quickenborne said it was not a video of his guests urinating on the police car as many assumed and that he was only taking a selfie with his friend.
Van Quickenborne showed reporters the selfie, whose metadata lines up with the time and location on the footage.
“It's important to know that of all the people who were present at the party, none of them spoke about this,” the minister said of the urinating on the police car.
“When the news came out on 23 August, everyone, except of course those who did the deed, was really astonished at what had happened.”
Van Quickenborne added that, from the outset, he cooperated with the public prosecutor's office and asked the guests who had urinated on the car to come forward, which they did.
Nevertheless, he will appear before the justice committee, where several parties have asked him to explain himself.
A lawyer for the men who were caught urinating on the police car described the act as “a stupidity of which they are deeply ashamed – stupid, but not criminal”.
"They had no intention of smearing the police or destroying things. They have the greatest respect for the rule of law and the crucial role that the police play in it," the lawyer said.
"This is all the more true given that their friend, the justice minister, and his family have been protected by the police in difficult circumstances.
"It is very regrettable that their actions, for which they alone are responsible, are now affecting Vincent Van Quickenborne – especially as this happened without his knowledge."
Fines for such an act of public urination theoretically range from €100 to €10,000, but are very rarely given.