Real estate developer Bart Versluys was assaulted and robbed of a luxury watch worth €350,000 on 1 April in Ostend. The businessman, known for several large-scale real estate projects, such as the takeover of La Réserve luxury hotel  in Knokke with Marc Coucke, was attacked by two individuals at around 6.45 pm in the Zandvoordestraat.

The assailants had brandished a weapon and used pepper spray to subdue the victim.

The facts bear strong similarities to the attack on businessman Miguel Dheedene on the night of 18 to 19 March in Antwerp. He was assaulted with pepper spray in the Zwijgerstraat by two men. His luxury watch, worth €180,000, was also stolen.

These robberies were part of a large-scale investigation initially begun in Antwerp, but shifted to East Flanders because of two violent burglaries committed in Ghent by the same gang.

As part of the investigation, the Ghent investigating judge placed four suspects under arrest warrants. They are believed to be part of a gang from northern France linked to the Houplines amateur football club.

The four were sent to the Ghent criminal court, which sentenced them to four to seven years in prison for their involvement in the attacks. A fifth French suspect is still at large.

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