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The top journalist, the mafia boss and the gunman: Dutch fear the rise of ‘narco crime’ | Netherlands

Five gunshots blasted like fireworks on a sunny night, simply behind Amsterdam’s busy Leidseplein. To the horror of the Netherlands, a cold-blooded taking pictures has left outstanding Dutch crime journalist Peter R de Vries combating for his life in hospital.

Everyone from European leaders to the Dutch king Willem-Alexander and Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema have expressed their shock on the ambush of “national hero” De Vries as he walked again to his automobile on Tuesday after recording a chatshow, on a busy road in broad daylight.

Within hours, the Dutch police arrested two males on the A4 motorway and are holding a 21-year-old from Rotterdam and a 35-year-old Polish nationwide. The younger man has been named in Dutch media as rapper Delano G, the Polish man as Kamil Pawel E.

But many are speculating whether or not it’s coincidence that De Vries, who made his identify reporting on the kidnap of brewing magnate Freddy Heineken within the Nineteen Eighties, has lately been concerned in a high-profile gangland drug and homicide court docket case, referred to as the Marengo trial.

Police on the scene of the taking pictures in Amsterdam of Peter R de Vries on 6 July. Photograph: Evert Elzinga/EPA

The 64-year-old has, unconventionally, been appearing as a consultant and media spokesman for key prosecution witness Nabil B, a former gang member turned informant. Nabil B’s brother was murdered in 2018, and a separate trial of three males suspected of shooting dead his former lawyer Derk Wiersum in 2019 begins on Monday.

Meanwhile, the huge Marengo trial continues, with the general public prosecutor accusing 17 alleged gang members of being a part of a “well-oiled murder machine” that carried out gangland killings between 2015 and 2017. When chief suspect Ridouan Taghi was arrested in 2019 in Dubai, he was reportedly described by the city’s police chief as “one of the world’s most dangerous and wanted men”. De Vries mentioned he had been knowledgeable he was on Taghi’s “death list” – one thing Taghi has denied. His lawyer Inez Weski has additionally strenuously denied allegations that Taghi has something to do with the De Vries assault, or any others.

Ridouan Taghi
Alleged drug gang boss Ridouan Taghi photographed in Dubai, the place he was arrested in 2019. Photograph:

Whoever is behind it, the taking pictures is being seen as a wake-up name on the arduous medicine and organised crime the Dutch authorities fears is undermining the rule of regulation. “It is a many headed monster that gets ever more violent and more unscrupulous: we cannot accept this,” mentioned appearing justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus after the assault. “Criminality in our country abuses what is good here, our logistics, our space, our freedom, and at the same time limits our freedom.”

Although in 2019, homicide and manslaughter instances within the Netherlands hit a 20-year low of 125, Dutch police union the NPB has repeatedly claimed the nation has “the characteristics of a narco state”, knife crime has risen amongst younger folks, and two years in the past a report into drug-related criminality in Amsterdam described it as uncontrolled.

Co-author Pieter Tops has mentioned he believes the nation’s light-touch penal system is “a major attraction” for criminals, whereas its roads and ports present wonderful infrastructure. Recently, Amsterdam’s mayor, chief prosecutor and head of police unveiled a new strategy to fight worldwide and native crime which, “affect the security of citizens and the fabric of society and threaten the rule of law”.

Jill Coster van Voorhout, who runs a project on the University of Amsterdam to make use of synthetic intelligence in opposition to organised crime, believes official figures symbolize a fraction of the reality. “Unfortunately, we hardly know more than the tip of the iceberg,” she informed the Observer.

“Many people have assumed that this might have something to do with the alleged drug cartel of Taghi. Of course, that might not be true. But in terms of drug-related crimes, we do know quite a bit about the way the Dutch are either the transport hub for drugs, a well-known production hub, particularly in the south, and how our finance system – like that of the United Kingdom – is quite susceptible to criminality.”

In latest years, Dutch police have struggled with drug gangs together with the so-called “mocro” (Moroccan) mafia and their ugly inside battles. In 2016, a man’s severed head was left in front of a shisha lounge in Amsterdam, final yr a fully equipped torture chamber was found in a transport container in Brabant, whereas Dutch police have lately raided report numbers of meth labs and cocaine and heroin shipments.

Wouter Laumans, against the law reporter for the Het Parool newspaper whose co-authored novel, Mocro Maffia, coined the time period, believes worldwide crime feeds on a traditionally relaxed angle to gentle medicine, and in disadvantaged areas of the Netherlands.

“Here you have people in the underclass who want to drive a Mercedes just like the bankers,” he mentioned.

Tributes to Peter R de Vries at the scene of the shooting.
Tributes to Peter R de Vries on the scene of the taking pictures. Photograph: Koen van Weel/EPA

“The Netherlands is a very egalitarian society but in some neighbourhoods and social classes if you’re not good at football, your learning isn’t up to par and you’re not good at music, your chances of becoming a millionaire are very slim. A driving factor that brings people into crime is socio-economics.

“We are not a narco-state like Mexico or Honduras, but the business of drugs is big business.”

Some consider that the prevalence of social media makes it simpler for criminals to focus on younger folks, and on the similar time makes group work tougher. Jack van Midden, director of the SAOA basis, arrange in 2006 to fight delinquent behaviour in younger folks with the assistance of road coaches and household interventions, mentioned: “There have always been troublesome youths but at the moment you do see a hardening.

“In recent years, it’s been harder to keep track of them because of constant social media. Before, you might see someone developing in a worrying way, for example, getting into small-time crime, but now we don’t see young people on the street and suddenly they are in crime … Drugs have become a kind of earning model.”

A spokeswoman for the Dutch justice ministry informed the Observer that the nation is taking the scenario significantly, and has lately helped dismantle the EncroChat phone network and function an encrypted platform to entrap international criminals. “We have invested heavily in combating crimes that undermine the rule of law in recent years, but this is a long fight,” she mentioned.

“Hard drugs are banned in the Netherlands and the minister has also said that people who take a pill or sniff coke at the weekends are partly responsible for keeping criminals in business.”

The scene of Tuesday’s assault is a sea of flowers and messages of help. Meanwhile, in Dam sq. within the centre of town, somebody has laid 4,000 white roses and an accusing message. “Is it an attack on press freedom?” it reads. “No, it is an attack on his role as adviser in the Marengo trial … Peter, hang on!”

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