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.

In the early '80s, a Belgian military intelligence officer named Andre Moyen investigated Buslik on suspicion he was trying to sell American aviation technology to the Soviet Union. Moyen, who at the height of the Cold War funneled information to a CIA front called the World Anticommunist League, thinks Buslik promoted himself as an American agent as a way to increase his underworld credibility. "He was a fake secret agent," says Moyen, now 84 years old and retired. "At any given time, he would present himself as being part of the CIA, the FBI, and the DEA."

Although the murder in 1982 of Frances Zwarts is the only crime for which he has been convicted, a litany of criminal actions has been ascribed to Jean-François Buslik, either directly or through his connection to Bouhouche.

Along with the bomb attack on Guy Goffinon in 1981, Buslik was also picked up for questioning in connection with the murder five years later of Juan Mendez, an engineer in charge of Latin American sales at Belgium's largest weapons manufacturer. Mendez, a close friend of Bouhouche and a gun fanatic, was found dead in his car on January 7, 1986. He had been killed execution-style -- shot four times in the head and twice in the chest -- by a 9 mm GP Sport Parabellum, a gun later recovered at Bouhouche's home. During their investigation police discovered that Mendez and Bouhouche may have been involved in some sort of criminal enterprise together. They had both been spotted in a stolen Mercedes four-by-four identical to one belonging to a manager at Abelag, a private aviation company where Buslik had learned to fly. The car, with plates matching those on the manager's car, would allow the men to pass freely in and out of secure areas at Brussels International Airport.

Buslik was arrested after police, who had put the car under surveillance, spotted him retrieving the vehicle from its parking space near a Brussels hospital. They later recovered from his answering machine a poorly timed message from Beijer instructing him to "stay away from the Mercedes." He was released after a few days' detention, then picked up again after police received information that he had obtained military documents on making bombs. A few days later, though, he was again set free.

On May 15, 1985, nine months before the killing, Mendez's substantial collection of high-tech guns was swiped from his home by unidentified thieves. The break-in called to mind a similar robbery four years earlier when the arsenal of the antiterrorist brigade of the Belgian federal police was sacked by thieves who made off with dozens of assault rifles. Investigators believe both collections wound up in the hands of Bouhouche, who had opened a gun shop in Brussels after leaving the police force and was suspected of selling guns to right-wing rebel groups in Lebanon and Algeria. Some of the stolen guns have long been suspected of being used in the supermarket attacks. A number of weapons were later discovered in abandoned vehicles and in storage lockers rented by Bouhouche and Beijer under false names. Also discovered in the course of the investigation was a secret tunnel under an abandoned restaurant that Bouhouche and company had planned to use as an escape route in the late '70s in an elaborate plot to extort money from the country's largest supermarket chains.

The plot, detailed by Bouhouche's former police colleague Christian Amory during an interrogation, consisted of setting off explosions near supermarket gas mains in order to create an atmosphere of terror. Fear, it was hoped, would encourage supermarket owners to pay huge sums to protect their stores from attack. This complex plot was never executed, although it bears an eerie resemblance to the brutal attacks later carried out on suburban supermarkets around Brussels. These days Amory, who served six months in prison as a result of his ties to Bouhouche, isn't talking about the events of those tumultuous years.

"If I start talking about this old story, it will create all sorts of new problems," he said by phone from Belgium. "I am sure there are people listening in on my conversations."

Considering the attention these cases have gotten in Belgium, Amory may not be exaggerating. That might explain why Buslik fled that country at the first sign of trouble.

Following the airport heist and 14 weeks of incarceration stemming from the investigation into the bomb blast on Guy Goffinon's Peugeot 404, Buslik hightailed it to Italy, according to police. What he was doing there remains a mystery, though investigators are certain he returned to Belgium by 1985, in time for the murder of Juan Mendez. In that same year, he paid cash for a small home near London. After he was released from custody during the Mendez murder investigation, Buslik settled in London for a short while before taking flight to the United States.

In that same period Bouhouche, Beijer, and a number of former right-wing police officers connected to them were scattering to the far corners of the world. Bouhouche was picked up in southern Spain in 1989 and held in custody until his trial five years later. Beijer was picked up in Thailand. Two others fled to Paraguay. Three, including Buslik, fled to Florida. Christian Pattyn and Martial Lekeu, both former colleagues of Bouhouche, settled in Clearwater and Orlando, respectively. Buslik, upon his arrival in Florida, is believed also to have lived briefly in Orlando before heading south, living in Vero Beach, then Boynton Beach, and for the last few years, North Palm Beach.

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