Crime Lord to face arrest over brutal 2002 murder

British crime lord Robert Dawes, recently jailed in Paris over a 1.3 tonnes shipment of cocaine, will be quizzed by Dutch detectives over the brutal murder of school teacher Gerard Meesters.

French and Dutch authorities have confirmed that a European Arrest Warrant has been granted for 46-year-old Dawes after new evidence linking the crime boss to the murder has emerged.

Dawes under surveillance in Spain in 2013

The arrest warrant was granted on November 26 just weeks before Dawes was convicted for a 1.3 tonnes shipment of cocaine seized at Charles de Gaulle airport in September 2013. The move was seen as backstop position should Dawes be cleared of the Paris charges. Just before Christmas, after a two-week trial, he was convicted and sentenced to 22 years for organising the load on board a passenger flight from Caracas, Venezuela.

Under the terms of the arrest warrant, Dawes could be extradited to the Netherlands and face a trial over the murder of Mr Meesters in the very near future. A murder charge would take precedence over the recent sentence for the drug conviction. However, it is highly likely that any extradition to the Netherlands will have to be ratified by a judge in France.

It is understood Dutch prosecutors, after submitting a legal assistance request several months ago, are still awaiting authority from the British government to interview several witnesses in the case in the UK.

During the trial in Paris, evidence emerged of Dawes’ links to organised crime groups across the world and South America drug cartels over a 17 year period as well as his links another murder in Nottinghamshire in 2002 and the disappearance of a man whose body has never been found.

After the conviction National Crime Agency deputy director Matt Horne said: “Dawes was one of the most significant organised criminals in Europe with a network that literally spanned the globe.

“He had connections in South America, the Middle East, Asia and across Europe, which enabled him to orchestrate the movements of huge amounts of class A drugs and money.

“This was often facilitated by the utilisation of corrupt law enforcement, port workers and government officials.Despite the fact Dawes has been based overseas for many years, his offending has continued to have an impact on communities in the UK, particularly in Nottingham and the East Midlands.

“Dawes was prepared to use extreme levels of violence in order to further his reputation and take retribution against those who crossed him. Members or associates of his criminal group are known to have been involved in intimidation, shootings and murders.”

The trial of “The One” begins in Paris….expect some twists and turns

ONE of the UK’s biggest Narcos will go on trial Monday accused of being the mastermind behind the biggest haul of cocaine seized in France.

In a 70 page document, French prosecutors, backed by evidence obtained from four national law enforcement agencies, accuse Robert Dawes of heading a ruthless drug cartel based in Spain since 2001, which had criminal tentacles reaching out across the globe to 60 countries.

Over two weeks at France’s highest court, prosecutors will present evidence that the 46-year-old Nottingham-born criminal, known only as “The One” to those in business with him, was behind an audacious plan which resulted in 1.3 tonnes of high-grade cocaine being seized at Paris’ Roissy airport in September 2013. The French drug enforcement agency OCRTIS, tipped off by the UK’s National Crime Agency agents in Venezuela, followed the drugs as they were transferred via more than 30 suitcases of “ghost” passengers aboard a commercial flight from Caracas to Paris.

Dawes under surveillance in Spain in 2013

Jointly accused with Dawes are two of his footsoldiers Nathan Wheat,35 and Kane Price, 31 and three Italians including a high-ranking member of the notorious Camorra mafia, Vincenzo Aprea aged 50. Prosecutors conclude that Dawes was acting as the “DHL” man, or logistics head for a number of organised crime groups in Europe and North America. For the price of 30 per cent of the value of the load Dawes would ensure the drugs passed through customs checkpoints via corrupt port workers who were on his payroll.

Surveillance of Dawes before his arrest in November 2015 showed him in contact with corrupt Spanish law enforcement officers and former port authority managers working in Algeciras, Spain. Prosecutors believe there was also evidence that Dawes had obtained French law enforcement files on the case within just eight weeks of Nathan Wheat’s arrest. Investigators also have information that Dawes planned to import a two-ton cocaine load from Colombia just weeks after the Paris bust.

An arrest warrant was issued for Dawes, now 46, after he was caught on bugs bragging about the Paris cocaine load. Elite Guardia Civil officers followed Dawes to a meeting at Madrid’s five star Villa Magna Hotel where he was caught on film and audio meeting a high ranking member of Colombia’s Carli Cartel and a Venezuela drug lord. According to the UK’s National Crime Agency, the Colombian man meeting Dawes was “a prolific money launderer for the Cali cartel and had political connections at the highest levels of the Colombian government”.

At the meeting Dawes spelt out his skills at getting drugs into virtually any country. He insisted on using highly encrypted blackberry mobile to communicate if they were to do business. In fact, Dawes was in control – via associates including the late Dutch crime lord Gwenette Martha – of a specialist sim card and mobile phone supplier registered at Companies House. The PGP encryption technology it supplied was virtually unbreakable and as soon as arrests began to take place after the Paris bust, Dawes ensured that all the phones in use were wiped remotely of any criminal evidence.

Robert Dawes discusses business over drinks with the Columbians at Hotel Villa Magna, Madrid

Dawes was transferred to a high-security prison in France shortly after his arrest but within a few weeks he had sourced a mobile phone and was calling his family in Spain and his Chinese mistress. During one call to his Chinese mistress Dawes, angered by her actions while in Dubai, threatened to kill her.

Investigators have frozen a number of Dawes assets including a large plot of land with a fishing lake in Coin, Spain and a luxurious villa in Benalmadena, Spain which was in the name of a Lichtenstein nominee business. They are also continuing to focus on money laundering activities in Malta, where Dawes had a company, Dubai, where he had at least £10 million worth of property and banking links in Switzerland, Pakistan and China.

The moment Dawes was led away from his Spanish villa to face extradition to France

Since his arrest Dawes’ lawyers have made a number of attempts to have some of the evidence against him ruled inadmissible, even going to the European Court of Human Rights to have bugging evidence ruled illegal. However their submissions have all been rebuffed.

A key part of the defence strategy has also been to question the methods used by the French drug enforcement agency OCRTIS and in particular the role of an informant, French-Moroccan drug lord Sofiane Hambli, in the bust at Paris airport. Hambli’s handler Francois Thierry, former head of OCRTIS, whose methods have come under scrutiny, is expected to give evidence in the case.

The fact that Hambli’s own lawyer Joseph Cohen Sabban has been seconded to Dawes legal team is an indication of how important Dawes’ lawyers believe this line of inquiry is in the case.

British crime lord charged in connection with record 1.3 tonnes cocaine haul

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.

Robert Dawes now faces trial in France as the organiser of the record cocaine haul
Robert Dawes now faces trial in France as the organiser of the record cocaine haul

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.

The moment Guardia Civil officers led Robert Dawes away for extradition to France
The moment Guardia Civil officers led Robert Dawes away for extradition to France

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.

Manuel Valls shows off the cocaine seizure in September 2013
French Interior Minister Manuel Valls shows off the cocaine seizure in September 2013

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.

Turkish gang charged over UK’s largest cocaine seizure off Scottish coast

MV Hamal boat is intercepted by Royal Navy
MV Hamal boat is intercepted by Border Force and Royal Navy vessels last week. Nine Turkish men have been charged

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