How former miner Michel Dylst grabbed 1 million euros from the coffers of his own association

How former miner Michel Dylst grabbed 1 million euros from the coffers of his own association
How former miner Michel Dylst grabbed 1 million euros from the coffers of his own association

After a career full of stunts, it seems game over for former miner Michel Dylst. According to the prosecutor’s office, the man who rocked parliament with false F-16 emails grabbed 1 million euros from the coffers of his own miners’ association. “Whoever asked questions was called a rat and a saboteur.”

Stavros Kelepouris and Jeroen Van HorenbeekSeptember 22, 202218:00

For two weeks, former miner Michel Dylst, world famous and notorious in Limburg, has been in jail. He may stay there for the next few weeks, along with his wife. The two are suspected of having made off with more than a million euros from the non-profit organization KS Vriendenkring, the miners’ association that Dylst founded himself. Dylst maintains his innocence for the time being.

Eddy Melis, his loyal right-hand man for many years, also insists that Dylst cannot be blamed. At the prosecutor’s office, it is then again possible to hear that the evidence is strong. And also in the mining environment more and more people are convinced that Dylst has indeed enriched itself.

Part of the reason is that Melis herself suggested that money has gone missing from the till. A few days after his friend’s arrest, Melis called the miners together in Houthalen. The 3,500 attendees were suddenly told that Dylst was being chased by the mafia, that he had been tried to kill him with rat poison, and that he had been beaten up earlier this year, resulting in seven broken ribs. “The chairman may have had to transfer money to the Hungarian mafia after serious threats,” said Melis.

A story that few seemed to take seriously, although only a few dared to say it out loud. “Pure bullshit”, estimated a miner present. The story quickly turned out to be completely out of the blue. Last week, the 5,000 members of the non-profit organization received an email in which Melis admits this herself. “Never one cent has been paid to anyone with bad intentions,” it sounds. “At the end of the general meeting on Sunday 11 September, I was handed a piece of paper. The text was not so clear, not in content and difficult to read. I read the contents blindly according to my interpretation.”

‘Damage operation’

The involvement of the mafia was already the second explanation that Melis gave for the events. Immediately after Dylst’s arrest, Melis recorded a video in which he talks in cryptic terms about an orchestrated damage operation. “As we predicted, there will be attacks. Intimidation, physical threats, death threats: one had to go down this road. To sow division among the miners.”

Melis refers in the video to a new law that significantly increased the pension of the miners two years ago. He then insinuates that the federal government is trying to take Dylst down in order not to have to implement the law. “Despite the agreements that were in place, the executive branch has not implemented them. The law is the law, it must be applied. We knew everything would be pulled out.”

It is not clear who exactly Melis suspects. Due to family reasons, he was not available for comment. Robert Coens, another director of KS Vriendenkring, does not want to comment. “My lawyer has said that I can’t say anything about the investigation.” Dylst was also unavailable.

It is clear that confidence among the miners is crumbling. “There is still a part that believes Dylst is innocent and believes in the conspiracy theory about the government that the board likes to play with. But there is also a part that doubts. And there are more and more miners who no longer believe that Dylst is innocent, but are silent,” says a long-standing member of the KS Circle of Friends.

Kader Zaouad, one of the leaders of the KS Vriendenkring, also says that the “monkey stories” can stop. “The government that sent the mafia. Come on, come on. That money is gone, no doubt about it. And Eddy Melis knows that too, there is no other way. Eddy is the spin doctor of the KS Vriendenkring.”

Miner’s royalty

The arrest is yet another startling story in which Michel Dylst appears. Dylst is miner royalty. He led the way as a strike leader in the closure of the Limburg mines, following the example of his equally infamous father. At that time, Dylst already had a reputation among many miners as a troublemaker and talker. Bee The Importance of Limburg As early as the 1990s, young journalists were warned that Dylst had to be careful because of unreliability.

“He was already a fantastic then”, say several former miners off the record about the turbulent end years of the mines. But at the same time, the support for him has always been great, because Dylst managed to pull off a very favorable dismissal and pension scheme for the miners during the closures.

His most notorious chapter is undoubtedly the fake e-mails with which Dylst single-handedly crushed the political credibility of sp.a chairman John Crombez. In May 2018, Crombez demanded the resignation of then defense minister Steven Vandeput (N-VA). He based this on a few e-mails that had to prove that Vandeput and the army command lied about the preparedness of the Belgian fighter planes.

The emails were soon found to be forged. The morning later found out that they were made up by two roaring names from the Limburg mining environment: Dylst and Melis. Both always insisted they had nothing to do with the case, but their involvement was undeniable. For example, in a voicemail message about the e-mails, Dylst’s voice could clearly be heard. The call came from his cell phone number.

On September 30, 1992, when the mines finally closed, miners refused to extract the ‘last coal’, preferring to pay tribute to the victims shot in 1966 at the closure of Zwartberg. Front right: Michel Dylst.Image RV

Coincidentally, the day of the publication, a miners’ meeting is scheduled, where Dylst and Melis kick wildly. Everything was made up, the truth would come out, and the journalists of The morning could expect a complaint and a lawsuit. They never came.

In direct conversations, the tone was a lot milder. The article had hit Dylst hard, he said. He came out like a madman, even though he had only good intentions. He promised, repeatedly, to tell the real story over a coffee in Limburg. Six months after the story was published, cordial New Years wishes were sent by text message to one of the journalists behind the article. “Good luck in all your ventures! I’m definitely rooting for you!” There was no coffee in Limburg.


Is Dylst a fantasist, as so many claim? Then a fantasist who knows his way around the Wetstraat. In 2013, Dylst is allowed to visit the Flemish government. At that time, he was looking for a future for the Ford Genk site. In no time, Dylst hatches a plan to rebuild cars in the Ford factories with the newly founded Minerva Group Europe. A budget of 800 million euros is mentioned. But the whole plan is shrouded in mystery, and the Minerva Group disappears as quickly as it appeared.

Over the years, the former miner has cropped up all over political Flanders. In the distant past, he got 9,000 preference votes on a CVP list. Until the affair with the forged emails, he was a board member at N-VA Zutendaal. But he also volunteered at sp.a. For years he scoured the receptions of every party.

His contacts also get him results. In 2020, Dylst may take the biggest blow of his career after the mines: he gets the federal parliament to approve a law that gives thousands of former miners an average of 200 euros gross extra pension, in addition to 10,000 to 20,000 euros gross in arrears.

bien you van Dylst: the government was in pending affairs, which meant that more power was vested in parliament. He also knew that parliamentarians do not follow up on every dossier and often just vote what the party tells them to do. It sufficed to convince a number of prominent Limburg politicians to find a majority in the House. Although he was also allowed to have coffee with then Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès (MR).

“Dylst is one of the best demagogues around. He can wrap people around his finger like that,” says a source who is well established in the KS Circle of Friends. That also explains another remarkable fact: why does an association of former miners have a million euros in cash at all? Because Dylst can be very convincing, it is heard by several members.

A few years ago, the KS Vriendenkring asked an annual membership fee of 25 euros. In 2020, members received an offer: 100 euros in one go, for 5 years of membership. Multiply that amount by 5,000 members, and the money is pouring in. In addition, there was also a strong ‘Support Fund’. Members of the KS Circle of Friends were urged by email to deposit money – an average of 305 euros per person was deposited, the directors claimed in the message. “The tone of the email was menacing, like it came from a debt collection agency,” said a source.

Also other miners who The morning contacted are talking about a lot of pressure to fill the cash. “Whoever asked questions was called a rat and a saboteur. KS Circle of Friends is a gulag,” says Franco Gasparello. “The money was supposedly needed for the operation, for lawyers’ fees, for accountants, blah blah blah. At the first meeting after Dylst’s arrest, we had to vote for any mistakes that might have happened. Then a bell rings with me: triiiing, something is not right here.”

Even more pension

At that meeting in Houthalen, 3,500 people did indeed vote for ‘the remission of the funds needed to finance the entire pension story’. But according to several sources, that was partly a sham. Many people simply did not dare to vote against, for fear of threats and intimidation afterwards. A large group of miners does not want to hear about open criticism of the KS Vriendenkring, because that would thwart the collective cause: bringing in even more overdue pension.

After the new pension law, it is not yet over for the miners’ association. The non-profit association believes that 10,000 miners are still entitled to a substantial sum of interest and compensation for pensions that have not been paid for years. Price tag: 800 million euros, an average of 80,000 euros per person. To continue that battle, the KS Vriendenkring was renamed European Miners Association last weekend.

“But why? A support fund has now also been set up for Dylst, on a private account of Eddy Melis. All those developments, all those weird statements, that only point to one thing: fraud,” says Gasparello. “This is pure fraud. People are being fooled.”

Former miner Zaouad thinks exactly the same. “There was so to speak lobbied for our extra pension. Michel claimed it would be in our account by July 14th. All lies. Dylst even showed fake emails – history repeats itself – from contacts he had allegedly made. But I also know politicians: nothing had been decided at all about those pensions.”

The article is in Dutch

Tags: miner Michel Dylst grabbed million euros coffers association

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