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Vestiville organisers arrested after Belgian fest chaos

Ravuth and Aymira Ty, and business partner Nik Chawda, are being detained by police on suspicion of defrauding contractors and partners

By Jon Chapple on 01 Jul 2019

Vestiville's unfinished festival arena

Vestiville's unfinished festival arena


image © Stad Lommel

The two organisers of the Vestiville festival are still being held in a Belgian jail, three days after the last-minute cancellation of a chaotic event dubbed, inevitably, ‘Fyre Festival 2.0’.

In their pre-event marketing, promoters of Vestiville – to have been headlined by Cardi B, Future, Asap Rocky and Migos – described the festival as “the new kid on the block” and said it aims to become “the premier hip-hop and urban music experience in Europe”. It was to have taken place in Lommel, near the Dutch border, from Friday 28 to Sunday 30 June, but was shut down by local authorities on the first day over safety concerns.

On Friday, the festival announced it would not go ahead, after the “mayor of Lommel decided not to let Vestiville start. After consultation with the security services and Asap Rocky’s security officer, it was decided that the safety of the artist and the public could not be guaranteed.”

The announcement from organisers followed a tweet from Asap Rocky in which he said he wouldn’t be performing “due to security and infrastructure concerns”. “The promoters told me it would be handled, but, unfortunately for you and me, they didn’t,” he said.

Fans, many of whom had come from abroad to see the largely American line-up, reportedly arrived in Lommel to find an unfinished, under-staffed site a world away from the complete, professional-looking festival build Vestiville trailed on social media.

“I don’t want to have to explain to parents why their child didn’t get home”

Announcing the cancellation of the festival on Friday, Lommel’s mayor, Bob Nijs, said: “I deeply regret this. Nobody wants to make this decision. But the safety [of those attending] the festival cannot be guaranteed. ”

“Together with the security services, we have done everything in recent days to rectify the situation. That did not succeed. […]

“I understand the disappointment of many people. But I don’t want to have to explain tomorrow to parents why their child didn’t get home safely.”

Among the failings, said Nijs, were a lack of emergency exits, non-functioning medical stations and an unfinished stage.

Videos shared on social media purport to show unrest after festivalgoers were ordered by police to leave the site, while others describe being stranded without food or water ahead its evacuation.

While fans will be refunded by the event’s ticketing partners, Festicket and Eventbrite (a spokesperson for the latter tells IQ it has “decided to step in and refund all tickets that were bought via Eventbrite, starting today, while we continue to pursue the return of the funds from the organisers”), Vestiville’s organisers, Cambodian-born siblings Ravuth and Aymira Ty, remain in police custody on suspicion of financial fraud and forgery.

The Tys, who are also behind Vestival in the Netherlands, are being investigated by the Limburg public prosecutor for allegedly misrepresenting their financial situation. (Fyre Festival founder Billy McFarland was jailed for similar offences.)

“Ravuth and Aymira told everyone that the tickets were almost sold out. That was not true at all,” Marie-Aimée Tournier, 19, who worked for the festival, tells Belgian daily De Morgen. “The festival was a flop.”

“He just wanted to organise a festival”

According to De Morgen, investors allege hundreds of thousands of euros worth of fraud, with mocked-up screenshots over-inflating the company’s earnings used to reassure creditors expecting payment.

According to Tournier, Vestiville’s sole backer was “a rich man from Asia”, who reportedly sponsored the festival for €1m, “but it ends there”.

The Tys’ business partner, UK-born Nik Chawda, is also being held by Belgian police.

In a statement provided to Gazet van Antwerpen, Ravuth Ty’s solicitor, Joke Feyntons, denies the allegations against his client. “He just wanted to organise a festival,” Feyntons says.

 


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