Secrets and Crimes

Four years after hed been convicted of murder in Belgium, Jean-FranCois Buslik was a pilot and a family man living quietly in North Palm Beach. Then justice came calling.

During the 1988 interrogation in Miami, Buslik blamed his legal trouble in Belgium on his affiliation with Bouhouche. The two have known each other since childhood. In the '50s and '60s they attended the same schools around Brussels where they became fast friends. By the early '80s, though, their childhood pranks had given way to larceny and murder. Buslik, who got a bachelor's degree in electronic engineering in 1974, was a computer whiz and an adventure addict -- pilot, marksman, rock climber, motorcyclist, and sailor. He often accompanied Bouhouche, an avowed gun fanatic, to rural shooting ranges where right-wing, law-enforcement types would fire off high-tech military assault weapons. Bouhouche seemed to accord him absolute trust. Buslik was one of only three people who had a key to Bouhouche's house, and he was godfather to Bouhouche's son David. Buslik, in return, pledged his loyalty to Bouhouche, a man he clearly admired.

"I think Buslik is someone who doesn't have very many friends," says Doraene. "He's reserved; that's his character. Still, he really seemed to respect his friendship with Bouhouche."

That respect drew Buslik into the inner circle of what has become known in the press in Belgium as the "bande a Bouhouche," or the Bouhouche gang.

Bouhouche's criminal organization first took shape in the '70s when he and his partner on the Brussels vice squad of the Gendarmerie, Robert Beijer, began to realize they could exploit their law-enforcement status for substantial monetary gain. Bouhouche, Beijer, and Buslik formed the core of the group, which included at least two other police officers. Investigators believe Buslik was the group's technical troubleshooter, the one who made the bombs, listening devices, and fake license plates. "He had a lot of talents," says Doraene.

Where he acquired all those talents is the question at the core of the Buslik mystery. Of all the members of the Bouhouche gang, Buslik remains the one about whom the least is known. The Belgian press has linked him to everything from the U.S. military to the CIA, DEA, and FBI. He has often been described as a DEA informant and has been closely linked in the press to a DEA agent named Frank Eaton, the top-ranking American drug agent in Brussels in the late '70s. Eaton helped set up the federal antidrug squad in Belgium, a law-enforcement organization that fell into considerable disrepute when its chief, Leon François, and most of his officers were charged with drug trafficking in 1982. Eaton, who was also charged, had already left the country and was protected under diplomatic immunity. Neither Eaton -- now an investigator with the district attorney's office in San Diego -- nor his successor in Brussels, Glenn Cooper, admits he ever worked with Buslik, and Buslik's name does not appear on the DEA's official list of Brussels informants.

Although he may not have been working for the DEA, evidence exists connecting Buslik, through Bouhouche, to the world of illicit drugs in Belgium. In 1981, investigators believe, he helped Bouhouche and Beijer install listening devices in the offices of other police officers, including the office of Maj. Hermann Vernaillen, the man in charge of the corruption investigation of Leon François' antidrug squad. Later that same year, a bomb misfired in the trunk of a Peugeot 404 that was meant to be carrying Guy Goffinon, another police investigator active in the corruption investigation. Goffinon was not in the car, and the police who were there were not injured. Buslik, who was picked up for questioning following the blast, admitted to building the detonation device used to set off the bomb but claimed it was merely a garage door opener he had sold to an acquaintance. (Today Belgian authorities say they have collected enough evidence to charge him with that crime.) Two days after the blast, gunmen assaulted Major Vernaillen outside his home. He was shot in the back but survived. Guns traced to the attack were later found in a vehicle linked to Buslik's old friend Madani Bouhouche.

Buslik's CIA connection is even more tenuous than his connection to the DEA. His father, Max Buslik, a German from Leipzig, may have worked for the American intelligence agency at the end of World War II, but little evidence exists linking his son to the agency. After the war Max lived briefly with his French wife in New York City, where she gave birth to Jean-François, their only child. In 1949 Max founded Aviation Benelux, a small charter aviation company in Brussels that reporters in Belgium suspect had ties to American intelligence. The family company also operated a military surplus store called Surplus 13, which Jean-François took over in the late '70s after his father fell ill. Investigators say the junk heap of a store -- crowded with helmets, clothing, and rusty military hardware -- didn't do much business and was most likely a front for the younger Buslik's more lucrative criminal activities. "It wasn't busy," says Pasquale Conedera, an Italian who used to work at the shop stocking shelves and cleaning up. "There was junk piled everywhere. It was nearly impossible to find anything."

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