Vanden Boeynants, Paul
(1919-2001)
   Paul Vanden Boey-nants was born on 22 May 1919 in Forest. He worked as a butcher in Forest and began his political career as president of the federation of area butchers. He was highly acclaimed for his work in managing the World's Fair of 1958 and he served as an alderman in charge of public works. He held the post of chairman of the Parti Social Chrétien (PSC) (French-speaking Christian Democrats) from 1961 to 1966 and, while holding a seat in the Chamber of Representatives as a deputy from Brussels, he twice held the post of prime minister (19 March 1966-17 June 1968; 20 October 1978-3 April 1979).
   From his power base within an extreme right-wing faction of the PSC, Vanden Boeynants engaged in a decades-long career of mixing public-sector service with private-sector influence peddling. In 1965, he proposed a project to raze the area around the Gare du Nord and erect 80 high-rise office blocks. He was much criticized for the plan, which resulted in only eight subsequently built in the so-called Manhattan district. Few private tenants could be found to fill the spaces and government agencies were called upon to make good the gaps.
   Known as "VDB" or the "Crocodile," Vanden Boeynants was implicated in a wide range of corruption scandals, including charges that his election campaign in 1968 was financed with bribes obtained from the French aircraft manufacturer Dassault. Under investigation for fraudulent business dealings with Arab arms dealers and implicated in provision of high-class call girls for business partners, he was found guilty on seven counts of fraud and tax evasion in 1986 and sentenced to three years in prison, which was suspended. Despite his checkered career, he remained popular with the electorate and, although dissuaded from doing so, he considered running for mayor in 1988. In 1989, he was kidnapped by Belgian gangster Patrick Haemers and paid $1.5 million from his personal wealth to secure release. Vanden Boeynants retired from politics in 1995 and became editor of a satirical magazine. He died in Aalst on 8 January 2001.

Historical Dictionary of Brussels. .

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