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.
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.
A “KEY member” of a drugs Cartel headed by British crime lord Robert Dawes has been arrested following a joint operation between Dutch and Spanish investigators.
Emiel Brummer, a 42-year-old Dutchman was held following a raid on a “safe house” used by the Cartel in Torremolinos on Spain’s Costa del Sol. The raid took place in recent weeks, but news of the operation codenamed “Misty” has only just emerged.
Brummer occupied a senior position within the Cartel, according to investigators who believe he was carrying on the crime group’s business at the highest levels following the vacuum left by the arrest of its head, Robert Dawes. Dawes’ luxury villa in Benalmadena was raided last November as part of Operation Halbert IV. Dawes is currently awaiting trial in Paris over a 1.3 tonne haul of cocaine seized on a flight from Venezuela to Paris in September 2013. Dawes is being held in a high-security prison pending the case being heard later this year.
Dutchman Brummer, who investigators tailed during frequent trips between Netherlands and Spain, was spotted meeting with Mexican cocaine cartel agents.
Brummer is believed to have been linked to the organised crime group which was led by Gwenette Martha who was assassinated in Amsterdam in May 2014. Investigators have also found significant links between the Cartel and the biker gang Satudarah or “One Blood” as it translates. The bikers have been used for transport links and security on consignments of drugs smuggled into Netherlands.
The operation against Brummer began in earnest after he was detected visiting Dawes in person before the British man’s arrest last November. The visits coincided investigators believe, with Brummer receiving instructions about shipments of cocaine being moved through Rotterdam and Antwerp ports.
As part of the Operation Misty Dutch and Spanish investigators searched 15 properties in Netherlands and Spain and made other arrests. Around six kilos of cocaine €500,000 in cash, diamonds, a number of firearms and hi-spec vehicles were seized. Several bank accounts in different countries were frozen and properties seized. Significantly they also seized highly-encrypted mobile phones used by Brummer.
Investigators in Netherlands are also keen to speak to Brummer about the role played by the organised crime group he has been linked to; specifically in a wave of recent liquidations involving the use of AK-47’s in Netherlands.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The wealthy co-owner of a Premier League football club made a £1m loan to a company controlled by David Hunt – three months after a High Court judge named Mr Hunt as the head of an organised crime network.
A company owned by David Sullivan, the multi-millionaire boss of West Ham United, lent the money to the East End businessman’s property company soon after Mr Justice Simon concluded that Mr Hunt led a gang involved in fraud, money-laundering and “extreme violence”.
The loan was secured against several of Mr Hunt’s properties, including a golf club in Essex and a restaurant once owned by the actor Sir Sean Connery and the late West Ham captain Bobby Moore, who led England to World Cup glory in 1966.
Mr Sullivan’s company, GC CO NO 102 Limited, made the loan to Mr Hunt’s company in October last year. In January, Mr Sullivan, a former pornography tycoon listed as Britain’s 224th richest man with assets worth £400m, placed this company into voluntary liquidation and declared liabilities of just £90, suggesting the loan to Mr Hunt had been quickly repaid.
David Hunt – nicknamed “Long Fella” – was officially exposed last summer in a judgment by Mr Justice Simon after the crime boss brought an unsuccessful libel action against The Sunday Times.
A catalogue of damning claims emerged during the trial, including allegations that Scotland Yard viewed Mr Hunt’s gang, which had operated with impunity for more than 20 years, as “too big” and “too dangerous” to take on. During a covert operation codenamed Blackjack, the Metropolitan Police placed bugging equipment in a car showroom, which picked up an attack by Mr Hunt in which he had slashed the face of a man named Paul Cavanagh, who had upset an associate.
Mr Hunt was arrested and charged with the attack. But the prosecution dropped the case after Mr Cavanagh withdrew his statement to police. A High Court judge would later find that Mr Hunt had intimidated him into not giving evidence for the prosecution. Mr Justice Simon also concluded that Mr Hunt had attacked and threatened to kill Billy Allen, a property developer, in 2006. “It was the sort of power and authority that might be expected from the head of a criminal network,” said the judge, who also ruled that Mr Hunt had engaged in money-laundering.
Three months after the libel trial had concluded, Mr Sullivan’s finance company made the £1m loan to Mr Hunt’s company, Hunt’s UK Properties. The West Ham co-chairman’s loan was secured against several properties including Woolston Manor Golf Club in Chigwell, Essex. This luxurious setting has twice come to the attention of investigators in unconnected matters. In 2006, Metropolitan Police officers raided the club and found cases of Bollinger champagne which had recently been stolen from a lorry. In 2008, Peter Pomfrett, a director at the same club, was jailed for 10 years over his role in a £37.5m fraud.
Two months after Mr Sullivan’s company made the loan to Mr Hunt’s firm, our sister newspaper The Independent revealed a secret Metropolitan Police report – codenamed Operation Tiberius and dated 2002 – which concluded the crime-lord’s gang had been helped to evade justice by a network of corrupt serving and former police officers.
“The Hunt syndicate has developed an extensive criminal empire which has so far evaded significant penetration from law enforcement,” said the Operation Tiberius report. “The syndicate has achieved this invulnerability through a mixture of utilising corrupt police contacts and the intimidation of witnesses brave enough to give evidence against them.” It added: “The Hunt syndicate is one of the most violent groups in north-east London and has been responsible for a series of vicious assaults against debtors and rivals. Their main sphere of influence is drug importation and protection.”
The report by the Met’s anti-corruption team names four Met detectives “associated” with the syndicate, one of whom is high-profile and has given evidence to Parliament. Operation Tiberius reported that corrupt officers betrayed the Met by telling the Hunt syndicate about tracking devices placed on its vehicles, leaking information about police inquiries and carrying out checks on police intelligence databases. Scotland Yard refuses to comment on Operation Tiberius.
In the same month that The Independent reported details of Operation Tiberius, Mr Sullivan placed GC CO NO 102 Limited into voluntary liquidation.
The 65-year-old made his fortune in pornography magazines and sex shops during the 1970s. In 1986, he founded the Sunday Sport newspaper, offering fanciful stories with headlines such as “World War 2 Bomber Found on Moon”. Mr Sullivan moved into sport with the acquisition of Birmingham Football Club in 1993, appointing Karren Brady – star of The Apprentice, who is close to David Cameron and George Osborne – as managing director. He sold up in 2007 and bought West Ham in 2010.
Mr Sullivan’s club has secured Premier League survival this season under manager Sam Allardyce. In two years’ time, West Ham will move into the Olympic stadium in Stratford, east London, which was built for the 2012 Olympic Games using £500m of taxpayers’ money.
A spokesman for Mr Sullivan said: “GC CO NO 102 Limited is a finance company, it makes loans to numerous people and companies. This was a normal commercial loan at a normal commercial rate.”
A spokesperson for Mr Hunt said: “My client runs a perfectly legitimate property company which, like most property companies, borrows money from time to time from commercial lenders. He has no further comment to make about this matter.”
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.
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.
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.