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Belgium Dismisses Envoy For Helping Out

Kerimov

By Unknown
Jun. 15 2009 00:00

Belgium has dismissed its ambassador to Russia after he helped billionaire Suleiman Kerimov get
visas for Thai dancers to attend a party in France.
Ambassador Bertrand de Crombrugghe breached procedural regulations when he lobbied personally
at his embassy's consular section for visas for five Thai women wishing to travel with Kerimov to
France, Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht told the Belgian parliament, Agence-France Press reported.
De Crombrugghe was therefore recalled from his post in Moscow, he said.
A Belgian Foreign Ministry spokesman confirmed the report but declined to comment further.
De Crombrugghe also flew in a private jet owned by Kerimov to the French Rivera, where he attended
a party thrown by the Kremlin-friendly billionaire, De Gucht told a parliamentary hearing Thursday in
Brussels.
De Crombrugghe, a 20-year veteran of the Belgian diplomatic corps, stayed at the Eden Roc luxury
hotel in Cap d'Antibes, he said.
De Gucht did not specify the Thai women's profession, but Belgian media reported that they were
dancers who appeared at one of Kerimov's parties.As a member of the Schengen group, Belgium can
give out visas that allow entry to many European countries, including France.
De Gucht said he learned about the visas and de Crombrugghe's trip from Belgian secret service
reports in November and January.
De Crombrugghe accepted wrongdoing in a letter and asked to be recalled to Brussels, the minister
said.
The ambassador, who left last month, had said in private conversations that he was leaving early to
prepare his country for its EU presidency in 2010.
Kerimov, a senator in the Federation Council with interests in oil, metals and banking, made headlines
in 2006 when he crashed an expensive Ferrari in Nice. He suffered severe burns and was flown in a
Belgian air force jet to a military clinic near Brussels.
The Belgian Defense Ministry later said Kerimov had covered all costs himself, yet a public debate
broke out in the country about whether the billionaire had received special treatment.