Netherlands organized crime war hits lawyers, witnesses and journalists

The Netherlands has the lowest homicide rate in the world, having halved in the last two decades, but it has some of the worst data on violence among organized crime, especially drug traffickers, who commission the murder of members of rival gangs. lawyers, witnesses and journalists.

The shooting murder of Derk Wiersum in 2019 and of Ridouan B in 2018, lawyer and brother, respectively, of Nabil B, a witness protected by Justice, are added to the beheading of Nabil Amzieb, a 23-year-old boy linked to a of the mafias part of the war between drug traffickers in the Netherlands. His head appeared placed in front of an Amsterdam bar frequented by the enemies of Ridouan Taghi’s gang.

These are three examples of the list of victims of organized crime, to which could be added the shooting against the Dutch journalist Peter R. de Vries, who died a few days ago after dedicating his life to investigating criminals: since the disappearances and rapes, to drug trafficking, assassinations and groups that are housed in the suburbs of Amsterdam.

This mafia violence seems to be accentuating while the total homicide rate has been reduced by half in 20 years, according to the statistics agency (CBS). While in 2000, some 223 people were murdered –153 men and 70 women– for different reasons; In 2020 there were 125 homicides – 81 men and 44 women – in the Netherlands, although 16 victims did not officially live in the Netherlands.

The shooting against De Vries recalled the murder of a controversial journalist, Martin Kok, also shot in 2016 at a club, after spending years on a blacklist of criminals and having survived several assassination attempts with an explosive placed under his car and two separate shootings. Before turning to journalism and starting his own crime blog, Kok had served two prison terms for murder. His death turned a whole dynamic around: the war between organized crime was no longer limited to attacking enemy groups, but also civil society.

De Vries was shot in broad daylight. He participated in the television program RTL Boulevard which, in an unprecedented decision, had to cancel several programs a few days after the shooting after receiving threats of a potential attack with rocket launchers or automatic weapons against his studios in Amsterdam.

It is not clear who is behind the attack on De Vries, but the country’s ministers and the local press do not hesitate to target organized crime. According to the country’s public television, the reporter was advising Nabil B, a protected witness in the Marengo case, in which multiple murders linked to Taghi’s men are tried, arrested in Dubai at the end of 2019 after years on the run from justice.

This problem has haunted the Netherlands for decades, where more than 6.7 billion euros in suspicious transactions circulate, mostly drug money, according to the Financial Intelligence Unit. The underground economy generated by organized crime in Amsterdam “has become uncontrollable” and is attracting an “army of young criminals”, according to a municipal report that admits that the city has become a center for the cocaine trade.

Drug trafficking and production in the Dutch capital “are practically legalized”, since they are “not tracked”, and the authorities have a “very fragmented knowledge about the criminal networks in the different neighborhoods, of the relationships between children in the street and the criminal organization “.

In an interview with EFE, the director of Europol, Catherine de Bolle, assures that an “astonishing” increase in the use of all kinds of violence has been detected. “It is a growing concern because (they are groups that) did not use violence before, it was something we saw more in South America”, but now also in European territory.

This violence has also increased in important transit points, such as the neighborhoods surrounding the main European ports, “important for cocaine trafficking, a very lucrative market”, and “there are more and more organized crime groups that focus on the same territory and try to use the same infrastructure, resulting in struggles to keep the territory. ”

“Not even the pandemic had an impact on cocaine trafficking. When we look at the Netherlands and Belgium, for example, the figures have been very high in 2020, more than in 2019,” he stressed. According to Europol, the economic and social consequences of the pandemic create “ideal conditions” for organized crime to “spread and take root” in the EU and drug trafficking remains “the most important criminal business”, present in almost 40% of criminal networks.

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