In February 2001 two Belgian smugglers met their contacts in the town of Doornik. There was some small talk, a few jokes, then the smugglers showed off the merchandise. Copies of a comic book called Tintin in Thailand. The buyers flicked through a few pages and pulled out handcuffs. They were undercover police.
Shortly after, Antwerp police raided the home of the mastermind behind the operation: Baudouin de Duve, 50-year-old former expat and member of a prominent Belgian family. His uncle had won the Nobel Prize for Medicine.
Tintin is a comic book hero created in Belgium but globally famous. Hergé (aka Georges Prosper Remi) first drew the adventurous boy detective for the kids’ section of Brussels newspaper Le Vingtième Siècle in 1929. For the next 54 years the Belgian cartoonist sent his creation exploring a ligne claire world, from the African jungle to outer space. Most readers encounter Tintin in the elegantly slim hardback versions of the comic strips. Tintin in the Congo, Tintin in Tibet, Tintin and the Picaros, and 21 more.
But Hergé never wrote a book called Tintin in Thailand.