It had become known as the “the war of the little noses” in the Flemish media after the cone-shaped chocolate treats known as cuberdons at the centre of the dispute.
But an an eight year rivalry between two street stall merchants on Ghent’s Groentemarkt, which regularly descended into abuse, dirty tricks and open brawling, has finally been resolved, a court has heard.
Carl Demeestere and Younes Benzaza, who both claim to sell the superior cuberdons, chocolate confectionery with a gelatinous raspberry filling also known as neuzekes or little noses, have been in daily battle with each other in Ghent’s sweeping central square, where they stand 100 metres from each other.
Over the years, buckets of water have been thrown, fines threatened by the local chamber of commerce, and claims of chocolate theft made.
The row escalated significantly in 2017 when a tourist captured a shouting match on film in which Demeestere appeared to make a racial slur, describing Benzaza as “a beast” and “a piece of shit on two feet who should have stayed in his own country”. The video went viral.
A criminal case was launched soon after and Demeestere appeared in court this Thursday, when he apologised. In turn, Benzaza said he regretted that the dispute had led to the prosecution. It was disclosed that two men were now peaceably back at their stalls.
The presiding judge ruled that Demeestere’s acts did not constitute incitement to hatred, but that they did amount to insults with racist motivations. He was put on a self-control course, given a conditional two-month prison sentence and a fine of €1,600 (£1,370) and ordered to pay Benzaza €1,100 in damages.
In order for the two men to be allowed to work on the Groentemarkt at the same time, Demeestere was also ordered to keep at least 50 metres away from Benzaza.
“I am already accepting the judge’s decision,” Demeestere said before the hearing. “What has happened has happened and cannot be tolerated. I have already apologised and I am doing it again now.”
The two men’s claims to be selling the better cuberdons led to some embarrassment in 2016 when it emerged they were selling the same brand.