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Cartels move in on the Netherlands

So much cocaine now comes into the Netherlands, it’s “the Colombia of Europe”, says German magazine Der Spiegel. Dutch investigative journalist Peter de Vries was shot dead in July and PM Mark Rutte is reportedly being targeted by drugs gangs. Much of Europe’s cocaine arrives via the port of Rotterdam – the police hardly bat an eyelid at coke hauls of a few tons, with a street value of hundreds of millions of pounds. (South America produced an estimated 1,784 tons in 2019, worth at least £350bn.) In the past decade the drugs war has spilled into middle-class Amsterdam. “All the boundaries have gone,” says one investigator.

A Dutch-raised Moroccan called Ridouan Taghi is alleged to be the “godfather” of the country’s drugs cartels. The 43-year-old, nicknamed the Angel of Death, was unknown before he stepped into a power vacuum created when two rival gang leaders died in 2014. Now the Netherlands increasingly resembles Italy in the 1990s. A decapitated head appeared outside a café in 2016. Young, inexperienced contract killers with Kalashnikovs have mistakenly murdered a community centre worker, a DJ and a pot-washer. In all, there were 178 contract killings in the country between 2013 and 2019.

Taghi was arrested in 2019 and is now on trial for six of those murders: “I’m on the hunt… and I need blood,” he is alleged to have texted at one point. When the star witness, one of Taghi’s former associates, was revealed by the authorities, his brother – an innocent advertising executive with two children – and his first lawyer were shot dead. “Wie praat, die gaat,” the local mobsters say: “Whoever talks, walks.”

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