Belgian minister strives to clean up ‘pee-gate’
BRUSSELS—Guests at Belgian Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne’s birthday party on Aug. 14 had a bit too much to drink and peed on a police van parked outside his home.
By Thursday, the political hangover had lasted more than three weeks, and Van Quickenborne, 50, was still mopping up the steady drip-drip of revelations.
His latest humiliation was being forced to appear before parliament to explain what he knew about “pipigate,” as the press had gleefully dubbed this episode—or “pee-gate” in English.
“I would like to apologize to all police officers in the country,” Van Quickenborne told MPs on Thursday, amid a police investigation into the drunken late-night incident.
“I completely understand that this outraged them. This is absolutely unacceptable,” he added.
Van Quickenborne lives under police protection after a major drugs gang had threatened his family.
He insisted he was helping police investigate the assault on their vehicle by telling three friends suspected of being the culprits to hand themselves in.
“I’m ashamed of these people and what they have done,” he said, insisting that he wanted to stay in his post. “I understand that this isn’t a pretty spectacle, and I’m not proud to have had to defend myself.”
Trickle of leaks
Van Quickenborne must now hope he has stemmed the flow of revelations. But the scandal has gained in strength, fed by a trickle of leaks from his police protectors and by his own home video-surveillance footage.
He turned 50 on Aug. 1, but it was on Aug. 14 that he held a big shindig at his home in the town of Kortrijk for dozens of guests.
Prime Minister Alexander de Kroo was also at the party, but insisted that he had seen nothing untoward.
He has not requested his justice minister’s resignation.
According to police surveillance footage passed to the Flemish press, three guests left the party late in the evening and, visibly inebriated, relieved themselves against a van parked by Van Quickenborne’s police protection detail.
What happened next has not proved easy to confirm. Tabloid reports suggested that some footage showed Belgian Justice Minister Van Quickenborne later coming outside himself, laughing and miming the relevant motions.
Outraged police unions demanded the minister’s resignation, but he furiously rejected this account.
This week, he released his own domestic security camera footage to support his case. On this recording he is seen escorting another friend out of his home at 4 a.m.—hours after the incident—and swaying backwards in a gesture some interpreted as him mimicking outdoor urination.
Van Quickenborne told MPs he had no memory of the gesture, but suggested it could have been musically inspired.
“I play acoustic guitar. Perhaps it was a guitar-strumming movement?” he said.