WHEN Garda detectives carried out a series of raids across Dublin last week in connection with the violent war between two rival Irish groups they didn’t expect to find a senior figure from a Dutch-Moroccan organised crime group.
Last week police officers descended on properties linked to the gang led by Christy Kinahan, the Dublin criminal known as the “Dapper Don”, who is based on Spain’s Costa Del Sol.
The raids, co-ordinated and targeted across the city, were designed to cause disruption within the ranks of the Kinahan gang and mute the current war between the Kinahan group and a group headed by Gerry “The Monk” Hutch. The feud has so far claimed at least five lives.
On April 7 at a swanky apartment filled with designer clothes in Baggot Street Lower, Dublin, detectives carrying out a pre-planned raid hoped to find evidence of the Kinahan clan, who are believed to use the €2,900 a month apartment as a safe house. Instead they found a man with a false Dutch passport and false Belgian identity papers. They also found three watches worth more than €80,000. The Dutchman was wearing trainers worth €800.
After the suspect had been arrested and fingerprinted Garda officers sent off an urgent check to Interpol. Their Dutch colleagues confirmed that the man they had arrested was 35-year-old Naoufal Fassih believed to be a senior figure of an Organised Crime Group fighting a bloody war on the streets of Amsterdam over a cocaine theft.
Fassih is understood to be a member of the criminal group led by Dutch crime boss Gwenette Martha, who was assassinated in Amsterdam in May 2014. The same group has been at war with another Dutch Moroccan group headed by Benaouf Adaoui over the theft of a batch of cocaine from Antwerp in 2012.
When Fassih appeared in court in Dublin this week, he was refused bail after the judge decided he was a “flight risk”. He has been charged with possession and use of a false passport and may face further charges of money-laundering unless he can provide evidence of his monetary income.
Judge Cormac Dunne deferred a decision on free legal aid after hearing the luxury apartment Fassih was arrested in contained three watches worth more than €80,000, as well as almost €13,000 in cash. Fassih was also wearing trainers worth at least €800.
Fassih is due to appear at Cloverhill District Court on April 22, when a decision will be taken about whether to move the case to the circuit court in Dublin. Fassih was represented in court by barrister Keith Spencer. Police said they had found two Rolex watches worth €8,350, and €35,000. A third watch found was a limited edition Audemars Piguet Royal Oak worth €40,000.
ON Tuesday, in a burnt out Volkswagen Caddy, police found the body of a 23-year-old young mechanic in a quiet residential area of Amsterdam. His head was missing. The following morning, the city had a gruesome awakening when the head of Nabil Amzieb was found placed outside a nightspot called Fayrouz which was sometimes frequented by Dutch-Moroccan gangsters. The severed head was pointing towards the window of the Shisha bar, as if looking in. It was clearly a message from the underworld.
Police believe that the horror find is connected to the ongoing war which erupted more than three years ago in Amsterdam between two Dutch-Moroccan gangs involved in the cocaine trade.
The victim is believed to have been linked to a group led by 31-year-old Benaouf Adaoui, currently in prison, who has been at war with a group led by Gwenette Martha who was assassinated in May 2014. Adaoui’s group were known to frequent the Fayrouz bar and thought to have planned some of their liquidations from confines of the venue. Some media reports have suggested that the 23-year-old victim had been planning to give evidence in a forthcoming case connected to the recent liquidations.
The authorities had recently spoken of hopes, that an end to the wave of liquidations plaguing Amsterdam – and further afield in Spain and Belgium – was in sight. It has sadly proved to be a pipe dream.
CRIME boss Robert Dawes has been formally charged by the French authorities after they seized more than 1.3 tonnes of cocaine at Paris airport.
The cocaine was seized from a flight from Caracas, Venezuela which arrived at Paris’ Charles De Gaulle airport in September 2013. It is the largest seizure ever made in France.
Dawes, 43, was flown from Madrid to Paris where was formally charged by investigating magistrate Anne Bamberger last week and remanded into custody pending a trial. It is understood the French have been investigating Dawes using sophisticated phone taps for at least the past 12 months after intelligence indicated he was behind the huge haul. Britain National Crime Agency and Spain’s Guardia Civil have been assisting the French in their investigation.
Several key lieutenants of his organisation from the Mijas Costa in Spain, were arrested at the time the haul was seized in September 2013 and have remained in custody since. Dawes was arrested at his family’s villa in Benalmadena, Spain last month. He has a string of front companies in the UK, Spain, Dubai and Malta which have provided safe docking for money-laundering over the last 13 years.
Dawes arrest was captured on film by a swat team of Guardia Civil officers who arrested the British man at his Benalmadena villa. Officers raiding his property discovered a number of firearms, hundreds of new sim cards for mobile phones and a state-of-the-art command and control centre where he operated from.
French Interior Minister Manuel Valls, took a personal interest in the case when the bust was made revealing that some of the cocaine had been stored in at least 30 suitcases which had been tagged with the names of “ghost” passengers. This had been destined for Netherlands and the UK.
Investigators also seized another part of the load, around 400 kilos, from a lorry at the Luxembourg border which they believe was destined for the Italian mafia. Three Italians, and two British men connected to Dawes, were arrested at the time along with a number of National Guard officials in Venezuela who are believed to have helped the drug gang get the cargo past checks at Caracas airport.
The French-led investigation has been supported by investigators from Spain’s Guardia Civil and the UK’s National Crime Agency.
As I have reported previously , Dutch, Spanish and British investigators are taking a keen interest as the process in France unfolds, as all still have the name of the British crime lord firmly on their list of cases unresolved. The merry-go-round has now started in earnest.
TWO British men were part of a drugs gang which shot dead a 12-year-old Dutch schoolboy by mistake after they were sent to kidnap members of a family believed to have stolen a huge batch of cocaine.
A Dutch court has sentenced half-brothers Alistair Weekes and Tyrone Gillard to 20 years in prison along with a third defendant, Dutchman Marcellino Fraser, after 12-year-old Danny Gubbels was shot dead in Breda, Netherlands in July 2010.
The trio were part of a seven-man team which arrived at the Gubbels static caravan home in Breda with the intent of kidnapping John Gubbels, father of Danny, according to court records. They had been sent by their crime bosses, to resolve the issue of a missing 400 kilos shipment of cocaine from a container in Antwerp in 2010.
On the evening of July 14th 2010, the gang banged on the door of the Gubbels’ home with no response. Shortly after, several members of the gang began opening fire believing the house was empty. But inside Danny was playing computer games at the table with his mother nearby. Both were hit by fragments of rounds which ricocheted around the building in a 20 second burst of automatic fire in which 27 rounds hit the Gubbels’ home.
While Danny’s mother survived the firearms onslaught after diving onto the floor, her son’s vital organs were hit by a ricochet. A fragment of a round penetrated his liver. He died in hospital from his wounds later the same night.
It transpired, the crime scene had been under police surveillance for a number of weeks prior to, and at the time of the shooting. Dutch crime investigators were probing the Gubbels family links to cocaine smuggling. Police camera images showed the men in balaclavas arrive in a transit van before approaching the door of the Gubbels house and attempt to gain entry and then begin firing.
Police traced the gunmen after the van they used in the raid was discovered and DNA samples linked Weekes, Gillard and Fraser to the crime scene. An initial prosecution against the trio in 2013 resulted in only Gillard and Fraser being convicted and sentenced to 16 years in prison. But prosecutors appealed the case and Weekes was also convicted with the sentences raised to 20 years for all three defendants in a ruling last week. At this hearing Tyrone Gillard had admitted to driving the gunmen to the scene of the shooting in Breda. Fraser and Weekes denied being part of the gang but DNA evidence on a number of items seized from the van linked them to the crime scene. Investigators have been unable to identify at least four others involved in Danny Gubbels’ death.
Weekes, 34 and Gillard, 29, both from Leeds born to the same mother but different fathers, were known to police in the UK. Weekes was arrested by officers from the then Serious Organised Crime Agency (now the National Crime Agency) in Armley prison, Leeds on a European Arrest Warrant in 2011. He had previously been convicted of shooting his half-brother Nathan Williams by mistake after a sawn-off shotgun they had been “messing around with” went off in December 2001.
The two claimed they had been given the gun by another man while they were behind a takeaway food shop in Armley, Leeds. Williams’ life was only saved by the skill of medical staff.He went on to make a full recovery. Weekes, then a 20-year-old, was sentenced to four years in a young offenders’ institution.
Tyrone Gillard was arrested by a team of Dutch SWAT officers in Amsterdam, where it is understood he had been living for at least a year. In court, few details have emerged about the power-base behind those hired to resolve the debt.
One person of interest, identified by Dutch investigators as an investor in the cocaine load which was stolen, was a man named Samir Bouyakhrichan. Samir went by the nickname “Scarface”. The Dutch-Moroccan was believed to be one of Europe’s biggest drugs kingpins and had previously been linked to a huge haul of cocaine in Southampton in 2011.
Bouyakhrichan was arrested in connection with the Gubbels murder enquiry and was extradited from Spain to Netherlands on a European Arrest Warrant in March 2012. Dutch investigators quizzed him but courts ruled there was not enough to prosecute him. He was released within a week. He was dead within two years. Gunned down late at night in a Benahavis cafe near Marbella, Spain in August 2014, Bouyakhrichan, 36, was yet another victim of a violent power struggle which is ongoing in the Dutch underworld.
One question has taxed the minds of Dutch prosecutors in this case. Why would English criminals be tasked with a job in the “flat place” unless there were English interests to be protected.
A Dutch source with knowledge of the investigation said: “We believe that the death of Danny Gubbels was linked to a stolen batch of cocaine which a member of the Gubbels family had ripped from a bigger organisation. The gang may have been told to kidnap a family member to demand their goods or money back but it went wrong and Danny tragically paid the price for this. The use of a number of English gang members in this would indicate that there was some British interest involved.”
Danny’s father John Gubbels and his eldest son were both convicted of cocaine trafficking after 130 kilos of the drug were discovered in a police raid after Danny’s death.
ORGANISED crime boss Robert Dawes has been arrested again following a warrant issued by the French authorities.
This week officers from the elite organised crime unit of Guardia Civil based in Madrid arrested the 43-year-old Nottinghamshire man and searched his villa in Benalmadena, Mijas Costa.
It is unclear yet what the specific charges relate to and what other arrests have been made, but the request has come from a court in France which is believed to be investigating a large-scale drugs shipment which came through its borders.
The operation involved the co-operation of the National Crime Agency in the UK and their French counterparts OCRTIS.
A spokesman for the National Crime Agency said: “Robert Dawes was arrested in connection with international drug trafficking as part of a joint investigation between the French OCRTIS, the NCA and the Guardia Civil.”
I have previously written at length about the bureaucratic bungles and corruption issues which have resulted in Dawes thwarting the authorities efforts to make charges stick against this “Teflon Don“.
Indeed a Spanish investigation into a 200 kilo shipment of cocaine linked to Dawes, fell apart after vital evidence including mobile phone sim cards and computer data seized in Dubai, which should have been presented to the Spanish judge Jose Santiago Torres, was handed back to Dawes’ wife via Spanish police officers. That loss of evidence, mistaken or consciously planned, alongside a lengthy delay from the British authorities to submit their own evidence, has been blamed for Dawes release from custody four years ago. The combination effectively ended the case against him in 2012. Dawes – who has ready access to a number of false passports – is known to have the ability and funds to corrupt police officers and key components of the justice system, according to those who have investigated him in law enforcement.
Now three years on the Daily Mail reports that Dawes is once again in custody in Madrid this time to await an extradition hearing which could take him to a cell in France. However the case will be watched closely by the authorities in Netherlands and the UK. Dawes was named as the man who ordered the murder of innocent Dutch school teacher Gerard Meesters in November 2002. At the time of the court case, which saw the cartel’s footsoldier Daniel Sowerby jailed for life, the Dutch authorities lacked a final piece of evidence to charge Dawes with ordering the murder. In the UK, aside from the overwhelming prima facie evidence linking him to shipments of class A drugs here, British authorities still regard Dawes as a “person of interest” linked to the October 2002 assassination of Nottinghamshire businessman David Draycott.
We shall, of course, follow the merry-go-round of developments with great interest.
AT AROUND 4pm last Friday a well-heeled couple sauntered down the pretty canal-lined streets which run parallel to Amsterdam’s Dam Square.
To most people they would have appeared to be nothing more than two of the thousands of middle-aged tourists enjoying a spot of afternoon window shopping on holiday in the Dutch capital. But when armed Dutch police officers swooped and arrested the couple as they reached Mosterdpotsteeg junction with Spuistraat, it was clear they were no ordinary tourists.
Dutch police had just detained 59-year-old Patrick “Patsy” Adams and his 55-year-old wife Constance, senior figures in the notorious Adams crime family from North London dubbed the A-Team. He was on the run and Britain’s most wanted.
In April this year, the Metropolitan Police quietly applied for a European Arrest Warrant to be issued against the couple in connection with the shooting in broad daylight of a former A-Team enforcer called Paul Tiernan on December 22 2013 in Clerkenwell. Despite gunshot wounds to the chest, Tiernan survived the attack and went on to later deny “one million percent” that Patrick Adams was behind the shooting.
The following month, the Met, having successfully applied for an arrest warrant, went public and issued photographs of the couple saying they were on the run, with the possibility they could be in Spain or Netherlands. Rumours subsequently abounded that they had in fact fled to Cyprus.
Alongside his brother Terry Adams, Patrick or Patsy as he often known, occupies a position at the very top of a well-oiled organised crime group which has brought terror to the streets and exercised a power which has even brought them to the attention of MI5 on the grounds of threats to national security. The A-team has been linked, since the early 90s, to more than 25 murders. In addition they have been involved in large shipments of class A drugs over three decades, and a myriad of other criminal enterprises from corruption and extortion to property fraud and money laundering.
The background to the arrest of “Patsy” and his wife is even more astonishing, if to be believed. According to the statement of the Dutch police , Adams and his wife were spotted wandering down Spuistraat by a police officer from the first floor of an overlooking police station. The officer, apparently specially trained in techniques of facial recognition, immediately linked Mrs Adams with photographs of the couple which had been distributed by British Police in May. The officer radioed to colleagues on the ground to follow the couple and ascertain if it truly was Britain’s most wanted. Shortly afterwards they were arrested and also linked to a safe house nearby which has been raided by the police and items seized.
A far more likely scenario is that British police had already tracked Adams through either sophisticated telecommunications or inside information and knew exactly where he was, and believed an arrest on the street would be safer having already ascertained where Adams was holed up. A knowledgeable source speculated: “In the war on organised crime it always helps if your enemy remains in the dark about the tools at your disposal. It would not be the first time that a cover story, if that is the case, has been produced to protect the back story to a high-profile arrest like this. If not its one of those one in a million chances that does sometimes happen.”
Another anomaly is that despite having clearly been informed the Met were on his trail, Adams thought Amsterdam was a safe haven. Adams could have chosen any one of a number of locations to lay low which do not have extradition agreements in place with the UK. Instead he chose one of the very locations police had flagged up as Adams’ potential sanctuary – perhaps Adams believed “the flat place”, as its known in criminal circles, was safe because the police had gone public. Either way Adams must have known that co-operation between the British and Netherlands in cases such as this is extremely tight and will now have to shuffle his pack of cards like a magician to avoid being flown back to the UK in handcuffs.
According to Dutch sources the couple have indicated they are going to fight extradition to the UK. Dutch judges will have to rule on the application from the UK within the next three months.
There was more bad news for the A-Team. On the day the Met announced Adams and his wife were in custody in Holland, they also announced a raft of criminal charges against a number of other members of the A-Team including Patrick’s younger brother.
Michael Adams, 50, and his partner Deborah Heath, 48, were charged following series of raids carried out by Scotland Yard and HM Revenue and Customs, mostly across the north of the capital last year.
Adams was arrested at his Finchley home in April 2014 as part of Operation Octopod when more than 100 police and customs officers raided properties across the capital and south east.
He is charged with four offences of converting banknotes, knowing they were obtained from crime, falsely stating his income for tax purposes and two charges of money laundering.
Heath, who was arrested at the same time is charged with the money laundering offence of concealing banknotes.
Four others were also charged including retired chartered accountant Rex Ekaireb, 67, of Hendon, is charged with intent to defraud HMRC. It is claimed he falsely stated the level of income Michael Adams received for “consultancy work, commissions and introduction fees”.
Ekaireb’s son Robert, a property developer, was recently jailed for life for the murder of his Chinese wife Lihau Cao, whose body was never discovered. Police believe Robert Ekaireb was close to the A-team and had phoned Adams’ family associates at a West End club controlled by the A-team for help disposing of his wife’s body on the night of the murder.
His father Rex Ekaireb is also charged with converting criminal property to launder cash. Four others are also charged under the Proceeds of Crime Act. All six charged have been bailed to appear at Croydon Magistrates Court in October. 22 others arrested at the time of Operation Octopod remain on bail.
It seems that finally last orders may be about to be called on the A-team as police begin to fragment this tight organised crime group which has brought so much fear to the capital and spilled so much blood.
By Carl Fellstrom, Tom Worden and David Connett
A top-secret surveillance operation monitored gunned-down timeshare fraudster John “Goldfinger” Palmer for at least eight years up until his death two weeks ago, it can be revealed.
The British operation, which drew upon listening devices placed by Spanish law enforcement, amassed a treasure trove of intelligence on organised crime figures from at least 2007. Fears about the operation being compromised by corrupt police officers resulted in it being established at a remote RAF base in the north of England.
A four-man team, some of whom retired during the course of the operation but were kept on for operational and secrecy reasons, was fed a daily diet of information about Palmer’s meetings and associations as he flitted around the globe and between Britain, Tenerife and mainland Spain.
Essex detectives investigating Palmer’s killing have requested help from the Spanish authorities about possible motives and suspects. It can also be revealed that Palmer, found dead in the garden of his Essex home in June, was shot in the chest and leg by a low-calibre weapon firing ammunition designed to cause maximum fragmentation inside the target.
The assassin had cut a hole out of a panel in the fence that surrounded the dead man’s secluded garden. Police have removed the panel for further examination.
The surveillance operation was based at an unlisted office within RAF Spadeadam, on the borders of Cumbria and Northumberland. The intelligence gleaned from the surveillance of Palmer and his associates led to a myriad of other operations being set up.
They picked up Palmer doing business with crime bosses from the UK, Russia, Romania and Spain, and created an intelligence file that read like a who’s who of organised crime, according to sources.
One former intelligence source with the Serious Organised Crime Agency, forerunner to the National Crime Agency, said: “They were being fed intelligence by the Spanish including phone calls and other surveillance material. It was kept as quiet as possible because of fears about corruption issues within British law enforcement, and legal issues surrounding the operation’s involvement with the Spanish and the obtaining of intelligence from those bugs.”
Palmer was charged with money laundering and fraud in Tenerife in May and was on bail. He was reputedly worth £300m, but investigators believe that figure was greatly exaggerated. In May 2005 he was declared bankrupt and all his assets, including seven timeshare resorts, were taken over by a trustee in bankruptcy. British police believe a number of his assets were taken over by the Adams family, the north London crime gang.
Spanish investigators tracking down Palmer’s assets found he owned a complex network of 122 companies, many offshore in the Isle of Man, Madeira and the British Virgin Islands, as well as 60 offshore bank accounts. The accounts were seized and the timeshare resorts were sold off for approximately £30m, mostly to Russian investors.
Palmer was sued in a group action by many of his thousands of victims and was ordered to repay them £4m.However, Spain’s tax authority seized the bulk of the money raised from the asset sales, leaving his victims with little prospect of recovering their money. He also spent around £5m in legal fees.
A source on the financial investigation estimated the criminal’s fortune to be nearer to £50m. The source said: “Palmer said he blew a huge amount of money in the 1990s on cocaine and girlfriends. He had a massive cocaine habit and the lifestyle to go with it – the private jet, the yacht, the Ferraris.
“He had four or five girlfriends at any one time, and would fly around the world on his private jet, to Barbados, Russia, the US, Germany, France, Switzerland. He also said he spent a fortune paying off judges, police officers and politicians in Tenerife.
“He said he once flew a private jet back from Russia full of cash. He was stopped at Madrid airport and bribed a policeman with a suitcase full of cash to turn a blind eye. Palmer had millions coming in in cash but blew millions at the same time. He used the 60 offshore accounts like personal bank accounts. His finances were complete chaos. So much of his business was done in cash, there was always a mountain of cash lying around in his Tenerife office. Literally stuffed in suitcases or lying around the office. He never paid tax and thought he would get away with it by bribing officials.”
Palmer’s yacht – Brave Goose of Essex – seized by a Spanish court in 2001, is worth much less than its reputed £1m value. An expert valued it at £400,000 but said it would cost £250,000 to make it seaworthy. “If you untied it from the dock it would sink,” the source said. Palmer’s collection of classic cars from the 1940s and 1950s, worth around £500,000, was allowed to corrode in the sea air in a Tenerife pound.
While Palmer was declared bankrupt and was officially broke, his partner Christina Ketley, who he met when she worked for him as a timeshare rep in the 1980s, was not. The house in South Weald, Essex, is in her name as is a two-storey flat overlooking the sea in south Tenerife. Ms Ketley, 55, is a director of seven companies in Spain and five in the UK. Prosecutors recently tried, but failed, to have her assets frozen.
She is facing fraud and money-laundering charges in Spain, and could be jailed for up to eight years if convicted. Last week prosecutors said they expect the case against her and nine others, including two of Palmer’s nephews, to go ahead at Madrid’s National Court.
Prosecutors alleged Ms Ketley ran Palmer’s business while he was jailed in the UK (he was sentenced to eight years for fraud in 2001, serving four). Sources close to Palmer insist he had no intention of pleading guilty to charges in Spain and a senior prosecution source described suggestions of a plea bargain as “pure fantasy”.
A defence source said Palmer vigorously denied the charges and had no intention of pleading guilty. He was due to fly to Madrid for a defence strategy when he was murdered.
The source said: “John Palmer was not a grass and he had no intention of becoming one. We believed there was every chance the case against him would have been thrown out.”
Before his death, friends say he was helping Ms Ketley run her Tenerife restaurant. He had his bail varied to return to Britain for surgery.
IN what appears to be the largest single seizure of cocaine in the UK, the authorities have charged nine Turkish men as part of the smuggling probe into more than three tonnes of the drug.
The nine men, aged between 26 and 63, all appeared before Aberdeen Sheriff’s Court yesterday, charged with possession of a controlled drug after an operation last week which saw the tug they crewed, MV Hamal, intercepted by Royal Navy and Border Force vessels.
The operation followed a tip off from the French customs after the tug, registered to Marshall Islands company Kiev Shipping and Trading Corporation, and flying a Tanzanian flag, was spotted 100 miles off the Scottish coast heading for Hamburg port. The German port has in recent years become a mirror to Antwerp as a shipping gateway for the introduction of South American cocaine into Europe. French sources believe the drugs could have been loaded onto the vessel in the Canary Islands early in April where it had docked.
Officers from the National Crime Agency working in conjunction with Police Scotland and the Royal Navy boarded the boat and brought it ashore to Aberdeen last week. French sources have estimated the seizure at more than two tonnes with a search of the boat continuing for several days.
The largest previous UK seizure of cocaine was in May 2011 in Southampton when a 1.2 tonnes load connected to Dutch-moroccan gangster, Samir Bouyakhrichan, later assassinated in Marbella, Spain, was seized from a luxury cruiser.
Though searches of the boat are expected to be completed by tomorrow, the load seized in Aberdeen could amount to as much as the total 2.4 tonnes of cocaine seized in the UK for the year 2011/12.
Seven men from Istanbul appeared in court yesterday.Mustafa Ceviz, 54, Ibrahim Dag,47, Mumin Sahin, 45, Mahammet Seckin, 26, Umit Colakel, 38, Kayacan Dalgakiran, 63, Emin Ozmen, 50, were remanded in custody along with two men other Turkish men arrested on the boat; Abdulkadir Cirik, 31, from Mersin, and Mustafa Guven,47, from Yozgat. Investigations are continuing into the gang behind the smuggling plot.
This seizure comes just 10 days after 2.25 tonnes of cocaine was seized from a yacht off the Martinique, the largest ever by French customs, in an operation which also involved the National Crime Agency.
In the past year large scale cocaine and heroin shipments which have been intercepted by the authorities have led to crime gangs in Netherlands, with links to Turkey and Morocco, executing a series of assassinations of significant gang members across the globe in an apparent power struggle.
UPDATE: Since this article was published, the National Crime Agency has confirmed that the drugs amount to more than three tonnes with a value in excess on the street of more than £500 million see National Crime Agency
A 32-year-old man suffered serious head injuries resulting in him being paralysed and a 48-year-old was struck in the leg causing serious injuries by the automatic fire from the gunmen who were seeking a man who had apparently left the bar.
The two gunmen fled the scene in a stolen BMW driven by a third man and fired shots at pursuing police motorcycle cops before escaping.
STEFAN Eggermont was just pulling into a parking space in the dimly lit street near his Amsterdam home when the assassin came. Death came swiftly and without mercy or recognition. It was a “settlement of business” and the usual omerta code of silence would follow.
The 30-year-old father-of-one arrived in Conrad Street in his blue Fiat Punto at around 1.40am after spending the evening with brother Jordi watching Netherlands beat Brazil 3-0in the World Cup third place play-off in July this year.
Almost as soon as Stefan shut down the engine and opened his car door the assassin was upon him, riddling him with automatic gun fire. But Stefan was no gangster, he was a well-liked man working hard as a customer service manager at a web-based marketing firm. His only crime was that he lived near to and drove the same make and colour of car as the intended target.
He had become the first civilian casualty in a bloody war currently raging between two Dutch gangs over a missing £14 million cocaine shipment most of which was destined for the UK, which has now claimed at least 14 lives. When death came for him swiftly that evening Stefan was yards from his home where his partner and three-year-old child were waiting for him and yet he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Finding no criminal or other motive in Stefan’s back story, Dutch detectives now believe the intended target was the brother of a man caught up in the feud, who drove the same car, lived nearby and often used Stefan’s parking spot.
According to Openbaar Ministerie, the Dutch justice ministry which is investigating the murders, the origin to this river of blood spills from a stolen batch of cocaine in the early part of 2012, when a gang known as the Turtles, ripped off a Dutch gang in the Belgian port of Antwerp. In March of that year customs in Antwerp seized 200 kilos of cocaine but unknown to them at the time, it was only part of the load. They believe now a batch of the drug had been stolen and had begun turning up in kilo amounts, selling for a lower than usual price.
The British Connections
At least two of the victims had links to a British gangster currently at large, named Robert Dawes, who in documents written by the Serious Organised Crime Agency, has been described as a “highly significant international criminal wanted for murder in Holland and drug importation in the UK”. Dawes was named in a Dutch court as the man who ordered the murder of innocent Dutch schoolteacher Gerard Meesters in November 2002.
Mr Meesters had been targeted because the criminals believed his sister Janette and her friend Madeleine Brussen had absconded with a shipment of drugs belonging to Dawes. Dutch phone taps later picked up the British gang saying the “fucking Thelma and Louise” pair had been taught a lesson and someone had paid with their life. British man, Daniel Sowerby, a foot soldier of the Dawes Organised Crime Group, is currently serving life for the shooting but he refused to say in court who had given the orders for fear of reprisals against his own family in the UK.
Wouter Laumans, respected Dutch crime journalist and co-author of recent book “Mocro Maffia”, charting the rise of the new Dutch Moroccan organised crime gangs explained: “The seizure In Antwerp was not reported in the media until recently so the gang thought all of it had been ripped. Then all hell has been let loose. There is no doubt in my mind that a lot of this cocaine was on its way to the UK where they can get a higher price for it. These guys are working with the British without a doubt.Its like some kind of Guy Ritchie film except its not funny.”
A trusted intermediary was dispatched by the Dutch Moroccan gang. Notorious Dutch underworld boss, Gwenette Martha; previously convicted of threats to Gerard Meesters before his death, knew the Turtle gang and resolved to extract several million euros as a fine in lieu of the missing cocaine. Whatever deal he struck did not appear to meet the expectations of his employers and Martha was then in the crosshairs of the gang which had hired him, believing he had double crossed them.
A failed assassination attempt before Christmas last year was finally fulfilled in May when Martha was shot dead in an Amsterdam surburb as he came out of a kebab shop. Martha, who had taken to wearing a bullet proof vest, was two days out of police custody himself after being caught with firearms in Dam Square. Police believed he had been on his way to “liquidate” a rival boss. When he came out of the kebab shop he was hit by 80 rounds from two or more AK 47 rifles. Bullet torn brickwork and twisted metal testified to the damage to nearby restaurants, homes and cars and to the sheer luck that no bystanders had been struck by rounds from the weapon.
Wouter Laumans said: “It was a miracle that a member of the public was not hit. But the miracles ended with Stefan Eggermont being shot and there will be more cases of Stefan if more is not done to control the situation.”
Most of the cocaine coming through Antwerp, estimated by the authorities to be 200 tonnes in 2012, is bound for the UK and Ireland. Cocaine will sell at around (Euros) 50,000 per kilo in the UK compared to (Euros) 30,000 in Netherlands with wholesale prices coming down over the past 10 years.
Death visits the man known as Scarface or Scarry
A second British link to the victims emerged in August this year when Samir “Scarface” Bouyakhrichan, 36, a major figure in the Dutch moroccan underworld and believed to be one of the investors in the missing cocaine was shot dead near Marbella, Spain. Like Gwenette Martha, Dutch investigators believe “Scarface” had done business with Spanish based Robert Dawes. Bouyakhrichan was also believed to be an investor in the £300 million worth of cocaine seized in Southampton in 2011, the largest seizure to date in the UK.
Bouyakhrichan had been arrested in Spain and extradited over the tragic death of 12-year-old Danny Gubbels. In July 2010 seven gunmen using AK 47’s shot up a trailer park home in Breda, Netherlands where the Gubbels family lived after a member of the family was suspected of stealing a large batch of cocaine. A ricochet from one of the rounds fired struck Danny and killed him. Two men, including Tyrone Gillard, from Leeds, were convicted of manslaughter and are currently serving 16 years. Bouyakhrichan, who was suspected of being one of the investors in the stolen load, was released after seven days of questioning but never charged.
The death of innocence and the AK-47
The shootings have shocked the Dutch public because of the brazen nature. In several incidents the gunmen have been using AK 47’s in their shootouts; this a measure against the popularity of the bullet proof vest which several of the victims were wearing to no avail. In a failed assassination attempt in an Amsterdam cafe recently two innocent bystanders were shot causing serious head injuries in one man and leg injuries in another.
For Janke Verhagen, Stefan Eggermont’s 32-year-old partner and mother of their three-year-old boy, the joy of the summer holiday with Stefan’s parents in Spain seems a lifetime ago.
“We had come back from Spain three days earlier,” she said.”That night he wanted to see the football with Jordi and a friend. When he didn’t come back on time I sent Stefan a text. It was just before I went out to see what the sirens were about so I had texted jokingly “Hey! you still alive?” it went out at 1.37am about the time he was shot. When I got there all I could see was a body lying under a white sheet next to our car, and then I knew. It has been like being in the middle of a Godfather movie.”
Only a few days after Stefan’s murder, Omar Lkhorf, who police believe was the intended target and has now fled abroad, knocked on her door.
“He was just a boy. He was crying and totally distraught. It was genuine. He said it was meant for him and he had come home 30 minutes early that night. I was angry I thought my god, just 30 minutes and maybe it would have been a different story, ” she said. “I am coping. But people don’t seem to understand that it could so easily be their loved one. All it took for Stefan to die was to be driving the same car and living in the area. That seems crazy to me.We need a response from the public.”
Last month Dutch police arrested a 26-year-old man in connection with Stefan’s death after confirming the firearm which killed him had been found at the suspect’s home. But he has told detectives he was holding the weapon for someone he will not name. The suspect does not fit the description of the assassin and he has only been charged with possession of a firearm.
Janke added: “He will get maybe two years but who is directing these young people to do these things? They are the people that need to be caught. The silence cannot continue.”
Netherland’s Openbaar Ministerie, (OM) the equivalent of the Crown Prosecution Service, which is handling the investigation, are braced for more assassinations to come. They are up against gangsters using state-of-the-art trackers and jammers to stay ahead of law enforcement. In Antwerp port they also had the ability to corrupt a customs officer, now serving 14 years and install malicious software into the ports computers to change cargo details so that they would be passed through any checks.
Last week the Dutch authorities had their first major success in what has become a huge investigation draining their resources. One of the ringleaders of one of the gangs involved was jailed for ten years for his role in the first murder which sparked the trail of killings. Benaouf Adaoui, 30, was convicted on Monday of his role in the murder of Najeb Bouhbouh.
When I spoke to the authorities a few weeks ago they were candid. They didn’t believe the killings were over. Spokesman Franklin Wattimena said: “This all started with the missing cocaine in Antwerp and the subsequent murder of Najeb Bouhbouh. We are warning all potential targets when intelligence is received as is our duty.We are also in a difficult situation because the people we are investigating have technology which is beating us. We thought the end to this feud came with Gwenette Martha’s death. That was not to be the case and we do not think it is at an end yet.”
The words of Mr Wattimena proved to be sadly prophetic at around 7.30pm (GMT) last night when 34-year-old Luana Luz Xavier was shot dead in front of her daughter and son in the street in the Amstelveen district of Amsterdam.
Brazilian by birth, she ran a successful clothes shop in Amsterdam’s Nine streets area. But more significantly she was the girlfriend of a kickboxer called Najb Himmich, who was at one time Gwenette Martha’s right hand man and, according to Dutch media sources, had taken charge of Martha’s organised crime group following his death. He had gone underground in recent months.
Wouter Laumans voiced fears that the war has now reached a new desperate level.
“So now they are targeting the wives and girlfriends of gangsters if they can’t find the targets themselves. This is a new low in the Netherlands,” he said.
THE DEATH TOLL:
October 18 2012: Najeb Bouhbouh, 34, gunned down outside the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Antwerp
December 29 2012: Said El Yazidi, 21, and Youseff Lkhorf, 28 were shot dead in an AK 47 wild west shootout near an Amsterdam canal in which gang boss Benaouf Adaoui survived. It was in response to the murder of Najeb Boubouh. Pursuing police were also shot at by the assassins.
March 16 2013: Rida Bennajem, 21, shot dead Amsterdam. Believed to be one of the hitmen involved in murder of Bouhbouh
May 26 2013: Souhail Laachir, 26, shot dead Amsterdam. He was involved in the finances of Benaouf Adaoui
August 24 2013: Chris Bouman, 36, involved in luring Najeb Bouhbouh to the Crowne Plaza, committed suicide in prison awaiting charges on October 18 2012 murder. Police believe he had been threatened while in custody.
February 20 2014: Alexander Gillis,30, friend of Gwenette Martha shot dead Amsterdam
March 22 2014: Mohammed El Mayouri, 30, a shooter for the Benaouf group shot dead Amsterdam
May 22 2014: Gwenette Martha, best friend of Najeb Bouhbouh, shot dead Amsterdam
July 13 2014: Stefan Eggermont shot dead in case of mistaken identity. Investigators believed that the shooters were targeting Omar Lkhorf brother of Youseff Lkhorf killed in December 2012. Omar Lkhorf drove the same car as Stefan, often parked in a similar spot and lived nearby.
August 16 2014: Derkiaoui Van Der Meijden, 34, shot dead Amsterdam. Associate of Gwenette Martha and hit man believed to be involved in the December 29 2012 shootings. Wearing a bullet proof vest he was gunned down by two men brandishing AK 47’s.
August 28 2014: Samir Bouyakhrichan, 36, head of another organised crime group and friend of Benaouf group shot dead Marbella, Spain.
September 3 2014: Massod Amin Hosseini, 26 shot dead Amsterdam. Massod was known on the periphery of both groups.
December 9 2014: Luana Luz Xavier, 34, shot dead in Amstelveen in the street as her two children stood next to her. She was the girlfriend of Najib Himmich.