In April 2020, Dr Wijnendaele discovered a Belgian horse’s passport contained his name and stamp, although he had left Belgium in 2005. H&H finds out the facts of the FEI Tribunal case involving a leading figure in endurance
A SENIOR figure in endurance who falsified horse passports has been suspended for 20 months.
The FEI Tribunal found Pierre Arnould, former Belgian endurance national team leader and member of the FEI endurance committee, used FEI vet Peter Wijnendaele’s old stamp and added a forged signature to four horses’ FEI passports; “undoubtedly amounting” to fraud and bringing the FEI and/or equestrian sport into disrepute.
In April 2020, Dr Wijnendaele discovered a Belgian horse’s passport contained his name and stamp, although he had left Belgium in 2005. He found further instances of his stamp being used, and informed the FEI. In October 2020 Arnould was told of FEI disciplinary proceedings relating to four endurance horses.
The FEI’s case was that the horses were trained by Arnould and in his care at the time of the vaccinations, which were validated by the same stamp and signature, and the passports did not contain vial labels. The FEI said Arnould’s conduct was “very serious”, breaching important FEI rules. Dr Wijnendaele told the FEI he recognised the writing in the four cases as Arnould’s.
One of the horses, Sonschein, participated in four international competitions, including the 2018 World Equestrian Games, with a passport vaccination entry of 21 April. Arnould said, as with many horses in his stable, this horse would “in general” be vaccinated by vet Stefan Midgen – but would not stay long since the arrangement was to return the horse to its owner for rest periods. He said this horse was vaccinated as it competed and nobody “raised any issue” in relation to the vaccinations.
The FEI stated the passports were “unlikely” to be the only ones falsified, and the organisation had evidence of further cases. The FEI said failure to vaccinate is an offence for “obvious health and biosecurity reasons”, adding that forging passports also risked undermining the credibility of FEI procedures.
Arnould said Dr Wijnendaele “voluntarily” gave him the stamp in the presence of witnesses, and told him that “in case he needed to arrange a vaccination passport, the stamp could help him”. Arnould added this could not be considered fraud as he had Dr Wijnendaele’s permission to use it and added because the horses were vaccinated, there was no mistreatment of them. He testified he used the stamp in December 2012 “five or six times”, told Dr Wijnendaele via telephone beforehand, and the stamp was used for “convenience or emergency”. Arnould confirmed when he used the stamp, the horses were duly vaccinated. Dr Wijnendaele said he had never given any stamps to Arnould and had not given anyone permission to use his stamps.
One of Arnould’s four witnesses, Dr Midgen, confirmed he performs vaccinations at Arnould’s stable. He said he does not keep records of horses he has vaccinated and had no recollection, for example of having vaccinated one of the horses in the case, but said its name was familiar to him. Dr Midgen said whenever he vaccinates, he checks the passport, sticks the vial label in, dates and signs it.
Arnould submitted he had never been subject to any sanction during his equestrian career. He was a member of the FEI endurance task force from 2007 to 2009, and in 2020 was put forward by the Belgian national federation for the FEI endurance committee chair position. He argued the case against him was “driven by people motivated by jealousy of his achievements”.
The Tribunal said Arnould is not a vet, so had no legitimate use for the stamp and there was no other credible explanation than the passport entries were made by Arnould to fraudulently claim the horses had received vaccinations from an FEI vet. The panel considered Arnould’s involvement as a leader and official in the sport, and that he is held in high regard by the Belgian national federation. He was suspended for 20 months and fined 5,000 Swiss francs (£3,917) and must pay 7,000 francs (£5,485) toward FEI legal costs.
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