Death of a crime blogger

IT WAS THE DAY journalists who follow crime closely in “the flat place” feared was always close but hoped would not happen.

Martin Kok, crime blogger and owner of the popular Vlinderscrime.nl site, was brutally shot dead outside the Boccaccio club, a brothel 20 miles from Amsterdam, as he sat in his VW car around 11.30pm last night in the small surburb of Laren.

According to reports from the club owner, Martin had arrived at the club a few hours earlier with a friend who was speaking English and who had been with Kok earlier in the evening. Two hours later after leaving, Kok was ambushed in his car by a lone assassin dressed in black wearing a black balaclava. Police believe he escaped from the scene in a BMW.

Martin, 49, had moved from a life of crime at a young age, which involved convictions for extortion and a 14 year jail term for manslaughter, to become one of the most read crime bloggers in the Netherlands attracting more than a million visitors to his site every month.

A writing talent he was not, but in the two years I and other crime journalists had come to know Martin’s work, it was clear he had become a significant thorn in the side of serious organised crime figures and the authorities alike.

His website had become a dumping ground for sensitive documents from the criminal underworld and Martin pulled no punches in naming and shaming people he believed were at the top of the organised crime food chain.

Often this would lead to litigation threats from the lawyers of those named or sanctions aimed at removing sensitive documents from the site which the authorities did not wish the public to see.

martin-kok_-horenzienzwijgen

Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. Martin Kok shot dead aged 49

He would drive a coach horse through the established legal decree in the Netherlands that criminal suspects should not have their full faces shown in photographs or full names reported in the media. Martin would name the suspects and refuse to place the usual black band redaction for the eyes of suspects, which he viewed as an unacceptable veil of respectability and censorship.

The content on his website would more often than not lead to tensions and sometimes to death threats. In the past two years, those threats became more real when his house and car were shot up on one occasion and then earlier this year an explosive device was placed underneath his vehicle.

However, the reality of these threats did nothing to deter Martin, despite his role as a father of a three-year-old. The threats simply added fuel to his fire.

He said in July this year: “I take it as a compliment when someone puts me on a death list.”

Lunchtime on the day of his death he met with a number of the Netherlands major crime journalists from Het Parool, Panorama and other mainstream media,  to discuss ways in which they could all collaborate in a more meaningful way towards covering the current organised crime war going on in the Netherlands and further afield.

He was not everyone’s favourite and, without a doubt, some of his postings were reckless beyond belief. Some articles such as those involving significant Dutch-Moroccan crime bosses displayed a bravado bordering on suicidal. He often posted without checking basic facts and many quarters of the media believed he was a renegade to treat with extreme caution. Yet he was certainly valued at times by the crime news establishment, his material often followed up and some of those within the established crime reporting milieu could not have written their more measured and detailed pieces without the documents and contacts which Martin often provided.

How will Martin Kok’s assassination be seen in the criminal environment? There will be those that say his own recklessness killed him but really no-one knows what the motive is. He made enemies before he became a blogger and afterwards. Worryingly, there is now a clear escalation of tension and fear among those journalists who knew Martin and whose job is to write about crime in the Netherlands.

After unheeded warnings to Martin to tone things down, many feared this day was inevitable. It may be too much to hope that the reporting is not blunted by the real fear that mainstream journalists will be targeted now for exposing organised crime.

Wouter Laumans, the respected co-author of Mocro-Maffia, told me many months ago during one period when Martin Kok’s life was under threat and his website under much discussion: “What can you tell him, he knows the danger, he is from that world. No matter what anyone says to him he will carry on.”

Martin Kok desperately wanted to be perceived as a journalist with “juicy information” as he put it. But the truth was he didn’t appreciate any journalistic rulebook. His uploading of gigabytes of files on the Holleeder case which hadn’t been disclosed, was like a Wikileaks blizzard of unchecked and potentially sensitive witness information. His last message via Whatsapp last night just a few hours before he died was full of dark irony. It read simply: “A beautiful life, a journalist.” Whether or not the passage of time will place him in that category remains to be seen. His life along with his dream job ended violently. There was no beauty at the end.

Footsoldiers of crime boss jailed after police dismantle local cell

A CRIMINAL network working under the orders of organised crime boss Robert Dawes has been jailed following a joint police investigation into the large-scale movement of cocaine and amphetamines.

Dawes trusted footsoldiers, Christopher Turton and Dale Wright, were part of a Nottinghamshire cell working for the Spanish-based crime boss. Dawes, a former Sutton-in-Ashfield resident, is currently in custody in France awaiting trial for a 1.3 tonnes load of cocaine seized at Paris’ Charles De Gaulle airport in September 2013.

Christopher Turton (left) and Dale Wright were footsoldiers of Robert Dawes

Christopher Turton (left) and Dale Wright were footsoldiers of Robert Dawes

This week, Turton and Wright were among 13 people convicted of drugs offences and money-laundering. Turton received a 10 year sentence and Wright, previously a target of police investigating Robert Dawes, received a 6 year and 8 month sentence

Police discovered Turton, had himself been subjected to a punishment shooting after sending a courier with more than £100,000 down the M1 only to be stopped by Leicestershire police officers working on behalf of the East Midlands Serious Crime Unit (EMSOU) and the National Crime Agency (NCA).
The man they stopped was Robert Durant, also of Sutton-in-Ashfield, who was couriering £100,000 to a man in Milton Keynes.

The group used Blackberry encrypted mobile phones and secret compartments in vehicles to launder cash and supply Class A and B drugs around the country, stretching from Scotland to London.

At Stafford Crown Court this week 11 men and two women were sentenced to a total of more than 40 years for the parts they played in one of the illicit operations.

Enquiries into this group began in January 2014, when Nottinghamshire Police flagged-up Christopher Turton and Dale Wright to serious and organised crime specialists at EMSOU.

According to Detective Inspector Andy Jones, of EMSOU, “This was a sophisticated and well-organised crime group which utilised encrypted mobile phones, vehicle concealments and unregulated and untraceable cash transfers.

“Turton and Wright were pivotal in this network, organising and arranging the supply of drugs and the transfer of huge amounts of cash on behalf of an international organised crime group. I cannot emphasise enough that the street value of the seized drugs is exponentially more than what we have valued them at in the prosecution case”

Over eight months detectives evidenced cocaine, amphetamine and cash being moved around the East Midlands, north to Manchester, through to Scotland, south to Warwickshire and Birmingham, and on to Milton Keynes, Banbury and London.”

In order to physically transfer their drugs and cash, Turton and Durant arranged for three specialists, a Brazilian and two Spaniards, to be flown in from the continent to adapt a number of vehicles. These secret compartments were so well hidden, they were only detectable by X-ray.

Rob Hickinbotham of the NCA added: “Dawes was extradited to France in connection with the seizure of 1.3 tonnes of cocaine hidden in suitcases on an Air France flight, and we are continuing to support the French authorities ahead of his trial.”

The proceedings of that trial in Paris will be very interesting.

Reports: Dutch-Moroccan associate of Robert Dawes gunned down

DUTCH media were last night reporting the brutal death of yet another former associate of Robert Dawes.

All in One bar near Benahavis where "Scarface" was shot dead

All in One bar near Benahavis where “Scarface” was shot dead

The victim, who has yet to be formally identified, is believed to be Samir Bouyakhrichan, 36, known by the nickname “Scarface” within the Dutch underworld. He was gunned down around 1.50am yesterday (Thursday) by two assailants at the All in One bar in Monte Halcones, Benahavis in the mountains just four miles inland from the Marbella coastline.

Bouyakhrichan, who had real estate interests in the area through Albina Properties 2009 Sl, was apparently sat with a group of six associates when the two gunmen approached. As he attempted to flee his table the men opened fire. He was hit several times in the back before being shot in the head as he lay on the ground, according to eye witnesses.

“Scarface” was known to be a highly significant player in the Dutch-Moroccan mafia and had previously been arrested over the tragic shooting of 12-year-old Danny Gubbels in 2010 in Breda, Netherlands. Two other men, originally from Leeds, and another from Amsterdam, eventually stood trial for the killing. Leeds born 28-year-old, Tyrone Lando Gillard, is currently serving 16 years after being convicted of manslaughter alongside Dutchman Marcellino Fraser. Dutch investigators were unable to amass enough evidence to identify the five other gunmen or the men who ordered the shooting.

Samir Bouyakhrichan was, according to sources, involved in the Dutch cocaine and hashish trade at the highest level but also had business connections in Morocco, Spain and United Arab Emirates, according to sources. The motive for the murder remains unclear, yet clearly well-planned.

Just three days before the murder of Bouyakhrichan, Spanish police had also arrested and detained two men in the vicinity of the Benhavis crime scene, carrying firearms and silencers. It is not known if they were linked to an earlier plan to execute the Dutch-Moroccan national. A 63-year-old Spaniard and 32-year-old Lithuanian, who have extensive criminal records, remain in custody. Guardia Civil investigators have begun a nationwide hunt for the two gunmen who assassinated Scarface.

Investigators in Netherlands will be taking a keen interest in the Spanish murder investigation following a series of recent assassinations in Amsterdam including the death of notorious gangster, Gwenette Martha, in the city in May this year.

At least 13 murders and several failed attempted assassinations have now been linked to large shipments of cocaine being stolen by rival gangs and also intercepted by the authorities in the port of Antwerp. A brutal gang war between two rival Dutch based gangs has been waged over the thefts over the past two years resulting in a river of blood flowing through the Netherlands and beyond.

Martha had been involved with British gangster Robert Dawes as far back as 2002 when he was sent to deliver a phone number to Dutch school teacher Gerard Meesters demanding that he phone the number and tell the gangsters the whereabouts of his sister Janette, who the villains believed had stolen a huge load of hashish. Mr Meesters was shot dead at his home in Groningen four days later sparking a Dutch police investigation which led to Daniel Sowerby,a Dawes Cartel foot soldier, being jailed for life for the shooting.

Bouyakhrichan has previously been linked to the Dawes Cartel over a large cargo of cocaine which was stolen from Antwerp in 2010 leading to the tragic shooting of Danny Gubbels, some of whose family members were believed to be behind the theft. Two of the seven gunmen convicted, including Tyrone Gillard, 26 at the time and originally from Leeds, were sentenced to 16 years in prison.

“Scarface” had also been linked to £300 million worth of cocaine bound for Netherlands but seized in Southampton aboard the 65ft luxury cruiser Louise in June 2011, discovered after a tip off to the French authorities who informed the British authorities. It is the largest seizure of cocaine in the UK to date.

Around two years ago Bouyakhrichan reportedly moved himself and his young family to the safety of Dubai fearing the Netherlands had become a dangerous place for him to be, although he regularly travelled to Spain. There he invested in property and companies involved oil and fuel trade. In recent times his star had waned, according to sources, not least with fellow investors.

Some observers believe Scarface had made a number of enemies after a series of cocaine shipments, believed to be up to 12,000 kilos, failed to materialise or were intercepted by the authorities. One investment, which led to corrupt  Belgian customs officer Tim Deelen being jailed for 14 years, was seized by authorities in 2012 in Anwterp weighed in at 8.5 tonnes of cocaine packed into bananas from Ecuador.

 

Dutch crime lord linked to Dawes cartel gunned down in Amsterdam

A MAJOR figure in the Dutch underworld was gunned down last night in a surburb of Amsterdam.

Gwenette Martha, 40, died in a hail of bullets after three gunmen dressed in balaclavas unleashed a volley of automatic fire as the Dutch crime lord was walking in the Amstelveen district of Amsterdam in the mid-evening. The gunmen may have sped off in a BMW which was later found burnt out, according to some reports. Martha was pronounced dead at the scene, punctured by at least 80 bullet wounds, according to reports in the Dutch media http://bit.ly/1kpsf7x . The assassins were believed to have used AK-47 automatic rifles in the attack.

Gwenette Martha dead at 40

Gwenette Martha dead at 40

The scene of Martha's execution

The scene of Martha’s execution

Martha, had been linked to the Dawes cartel, headed by British criminal Robert Dawes, as far back as 2002. Martha was one of five men who visited the home of 52-year-old Gerard Meesters in November 2002 to threaten the school teacher to tell them the whereabouts of his sister Janette Meesters. The Dawes Cartel believed that Janette and a friend had stolen a large quantity of drugs belonging to Robert Dawes. A few days after the encounter with Martha, Mr Meesters, a complete innocent who had not been in contact with his sister for years, was shot dead in the hallway of his home in Groningen, Netherlands. Dawes Cartel member, Daniel Sowerby, was jailed for life for the murder and Martha received a prison sentence for supplying heroin to Sowerby and for threats against Mr Meesters in the days before the murder.For the past year the lucrative cocaine and heroin trade has been been at the fulcrum of an Amsterdam gang power battle; it has culminated in a series of fatal tit for tat shootings involving two major groups of criminals. One group was headed by Martha supported by a biker gang. Martha had been suspected of ordering the murder of two rivals in 2012 linked to a shadowy Moroccan mafia group. A series of thefts of large shipments of cocaine are believed to have increased tensions between the two groups. In December last year Martha himself survived an assassination attempt when a gunman jumped out at him but the assailant’s weapon jammed.

Martha himself had only recently been released by police after being arrested in April over the possession of two firearms. Observers and law enforcement in Netherlands fear the death of Martha may now provoke an escalation in the war which could see the recent bloody drug war in the country reach unprecedented levels of violence.

Video showing the aftermath of Gwenette Martha’s death.

The ex-cop, NCA agents and their stash of intelligence files

SOCA officer Brian Adair (left) and former Essex police superintendent Glyn Evans arrive at court

SOCA officer Brian Adair (left) and former Essex police superintendent Glyn Evans arrive at court

By Tom Harper and Carl Fellstrom

The National Crime Agency is embroiled in its first controversy after two of its officers were suspended and charged with data protection offences following an investigation into criminals in Essex, The Independent can disclose.

Sheila Roberts and Brian Adair – who both work for the agency dubbed Britain’s FBI – have been accused of unlawfully obtaining sensitive information, including intelligence reports and details of people inside NCA operations.

They were initially held on suspicion of misconduct in public office after their own agency investigated allegations of links between its staff and the criminal underworld.

Ms Roberts and Mr Adair worked on a drug-trafficking investigation by the NCA, which was set up by the Home Secretary, Theresa May, at the end of last year. All proceedings in relation to the allegations of misconduct in public office have been dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service.

Both officers have, however, been charged with data protection offences along with Glyn Evans, a former superintendent from Norfolk Police, who is listed as a co-director of a British private security firm that protects UK embassies across central America.

The two NCA officers remain suspended and are also subject to internal disciplinary proceedings. Details of the long-running case can only now be reported after The Independent overturned a court order banning any mention of the charges.

The prosecutions of Ms Roberts and Mr Adair are the first big blow for the NCA, which was handed a £450m budget to hunt down cyber criminals, drug barons, paedophile gangs and people traffickers. Last night, Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: “I am astounded by these revelations given the fact that this organisation was set up to provide a fresh approach to policing serious and organised crime. It is vital that all those who enforce the law act with the utmost integrity.”

The two NCA officers and Mr Evans, who is alleged to have unlawfully obtained secret counter-terrorism documents, are being prosecuted by the Information Commissioner, who enforces the Data Protection Act.

According to his LinkedIn page, Mr Evans spent 23 years with Essex Police before moving to Norfolk where he rose to be a superintendent. He then became a director of Corporate Security Consultants (CSC), based in Harlow, Essex. On its website, CSC claims to have provided security for British, American and Canadian diplomats – and one “member of the British Royal Family”.

The company’s co-director, Andrew John Mullen, was present in Sonsonate, El Salvador, in 2010 when one of CSC’s then employees, David Koch Arana, was arrested in possession of an M-16 rifle.

Mr Arana is a retired colonel from the El Salvador military and is a controversial figure in the region. Following a local outcry after the arrest, the UK ambassador to Guatemala, Julie Chappell, publicly backed Mr Mullen and told a newspaper that he was a “charitable and respectable businessman”.

The following year, Mr Mullen was made an MBE for “services to the British community, charitable activities and British commercial interests in Guatemala”.

A CSC spokesman said: “We were totally unaware that Mr Evans was involved in any ongoing investigation, and as soon as we were made aware of this fact his employment with the company was terminated immediately. Group CSC has had no further dealings with Mr Evans.”

Mr Evans, who is still listed as a CSC director at Companies House, was charged with unlawfully obtaining sensitive information in the form of a counter-terrorism tasking assessment classed as secret.

Brian Adair was charged with unlawfully obtaining sensitive information in the form of intelligence reports from a Soca (Serious Organised Crime Agency) operation.

Sheila Roberts was charged with three counts of unlawfully obtaining and disclosing sensitive information, including intelligence reports and information about people in another Soca investigation.

An NCA spokesperson said: “The NCA expects the highest standards of professionalism from all of its officers, and has a zero-tolerance approach to corruption.”

The mystery of the 19-year-old unsolved murder of city taxi driver

ETHSHAM “Shami” Ghafoor was a popular, outgoing man who made friends easily and was well respected within the cabbie fraternity.

What is also clear is that the young Asian taxi driver was troubled by something that he kept from his family, a secret which perhaps holds the key to why he was executed in a cold, clinical and brutal fashion in the early hours of a cold dark November morning in a lonely car park 19 years ago.

His work as a driver often took him on relatively arduous journeys, a long way from the taxi pitch outside Nottingham’s Victoria Shopping Centre. A round trip to Manchester, a job down in London, an airport pick up now and again. These were all journeys he took in his stride. Despite the long hours he worked, nothing seemed to get Shami down.

Ethsham Ghafoor brutally murdered aged 26

Ethsham Ghafoor brutally murdered aged 26

But as the autumnal evenings drew in towards the middle of November 1994 in his hometown of Nottingham, something was clearly playing on his mind. His family and his closest friends noticed his bright and breezy demeanor had been replaced by a troubled soul at times. Shami brushed off their concerns, he wasn’t the sort of man to burden others with his own problems.

 

Little is known about Shami’s movements on November 21 and 22 1994. He was spotted at a petrol station at the junction of Mapperley Plains and Wooodthorpe Drive, just after midnight. Then, at about 4.30 am, a milkman doing his early rounds on November 22 spotted Shami black and white Ford Sierra car in a desolate car park near playing fields off Lambley Lane.

The scene of Shami's execution sometime between 1am and 4am on November 22 1994

The scene of Shami’s execution sometime between 1am and 4am on November 22 1994

As the milkman drew closer he could see that there was a man in the car, who at first seemed asleep. The full horror of his discovery became apparent as he got to the car, 26-year-old Shami had been shot dead. He had two gunshot wounds from what police were later able to ascertain was a semi-automatic handgun. The murder weapon has never been recovered.

Former Detective Superintendent Chris Barnfather of Nottinghamshire Police said during a re-investigation of the murder in 2004: “It bore all the hallmarks of an execution. Mr Ghafoor had been shot once to the side, to incapacitate him, and then between the eyes. I do not believe robbery was a motive.”

Shami had a somewhat unconventional domestic life. He was married with a child on the way, but he also had a lover with whom he had another child. While this may have been unorthodox, Shami was not leading a double life, on the domestic front at least. Both partners were aware of the other as were Shami’s family and it was not a source of conflict for either. Yet somehow, in the absence of hard evidence, it lead police down a path which resulted in Shami’s lover being wrongly suspected of hiring a hitman to murder Shami. The pursuit of this motive without any hard evidence led to the Crown Prosecution Service rightly dropping the charges against her in October 1995.

Since then there have been no arrests in connection with Shami’s death and as the years have passed the trail appeared to have gone cold. One of the keys to unlocking the mystery may well lie in those long journeys Shami undertook in his black and white Ford Sierra car outside Nottinghamshire, other significant clues may lie in Shami’s movements in the weeks leading up to the murder and the crucial missing three hours when Shami was last seen at the petrol station to the discovery of his body.

Now a fresh pairs of eyes from Nottinghamshire Police are being trained on the mystery of Ethsham “Shami” Ghafoor’s shocking death. In tandem with the cold case review of the murder, Shami’s family have launched a Facebook page on the 19th anniversary of Shami’s deathin the hope that they can jog the memories of people.

Detective Chief Inspector Tony Heydon, who is leading the cold case review, said: “Shami was part of a very close-knit family, and his death has left each and every one of them devastated over the years. We are working closely with the family and supporting their public appeal which is using social media.

“Since 1994, the ways people provide information or communicate has changed significantly, and it may be that there are people out there who know who is responsible for Shami’s murder but have never come forward before. Now is the time to put Shami’s family first and help them find closure. Their Facebook group shows just how desperate for justice they are, and if you know anything you could help them.”

The Facebook page focusing of Shami’s murder and the impact his death has had on his family can be found at http://www.facebook.com/justiceforEthshamShamiGhafoor.

Just as people will remember where they were when they heard John F Kennedy was shot dead on November 22 1963 in Dallas, there are people who will never forget where they were when they heard that Ethsham “Shami” Ghafoor had been shot dead on November 22 1994 in Nottingham.

Shami’s family are appealing for people to visit their Facebook page and for anyone with any information to contact the incident room on 0115 844 6912 or ring Crimestoppers, in confidence, on 0800 555 111.

 

The devil’s advocate may finally face justice

Giovanni Di Stefano will be needing a competent lawyer to avoid extradition

Almost four years ago I wrote about the criminal’s favourite lawyer, Giovanni Di Stefano ,being investigated over allegations that he stripped clients of more than £3 million.

Now it appears the law has finally caught up with him, although it remains to still be seen whether he can wriggle his way out of this one

He is a curious character to say the least. On the one hand he claimed to be a lawyer to some of the most despicable and violent criminals of our time and on the other he appeared to spend most of his time ringing up lazy journalists who preferred to believe his ridiculous claims for a page lead about a celebrity criminal rather than delve beneath the surface of the man dubbed the “devil’s advocate”.

Di Stefano is a serial fraudster and conman who has no legal qualifications to be in a position to defend some of the people he claims to. I have no sympathies for some of the criminals he has duped out of money but there are some cases of genuine people who have suffered financial destruction and miscarriages of justice as a result of being represented by him.

One case in point is Kevin Musgrove who lost £40,000 to Di Stefano after being told the Italian was the best man to get him free. Di Stefano did nothing but seal Kevin’s fate in the Court of Appeal and left him serving an eight and half year sentence for a crime I hope to show he did not commit back in 2000. That wrong will be righted one day and the Criminal Cases Review Commission will shortly be receiving the new evidence which I hope will overturn his case as well as highlighting the corruption involved.

In the meantime I look forward to Di Stefano occupying plenty more column inches as he rails at the “injustice” of his very justified arrest. And to those journalists who courted this obsequious man for the sake of a few red top stories…shame on you.