1709044954 Drug lord sentenced to life imprisonment in high security trial

Drug lord sentenced to life imprisonment in high security trial

During the six-year trial, three people associated with the prosecution's main witness were murdered. Prosecutors and judges were not identified and traveled to the hearing in armored vehicles.

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Published on February 27, 2024 2:26 p.m. Updated on February 27, 2024 3:03 p.m

Reading time: 2 minutesSafe car leaves extra safe court for verdict in criminal case "Marengo", on February 27, 2024, in Amsterdam.  (ROBIN UTRECHT / ANP MAG)

A secured car leaves the specially secured court for the verdict in the “Marengo” criminal case on February 27, 2024 in Amsterdam. (ROBIN UTRECHT / ANP MAG)

The trial of an organization described by the prosecution as a “well-oiled killing machine”. Ridouan Taghi, the Netherlands' most feared drug lord, was sentenced to life in prison on Tuesday, February 27, for a series of murders committed between 2015 and 2017, the courts announced at the end of a major trial. The 46-year-old man, born in Morocco and raised in the Netherlands, is considered the mastermind of the drug cartel nicknamed “Mocro Maffia”.

The verdict was announced almost six years after the start of this trial, which took place under maximum security. The army was mobilized to secure the area around the court during hearings, and prosecutors and judges, all unidentified, drove there in armored vehicles. Heavily armed police officers patrolled outside the courthouse, commonly known as “The Bunker,” on the outskirts of Amsterdam on Tuesday. “We condemn all suspects. Ridouan Taghi gets life imprisonment,” the judge said.

Sixteen other suspects were given sentences ranging from life imprisonment to one year and nine months in prison. The 17 men were on trial for six murders and four attempted murders. “As a suspect, you had to wait a long time for the verdict, but that also applies to the relatives of the victims,” the judge added. Several defendants were in the courtroom to hear the verdict, but not Ridouan Taghi.

Grieving process

Because of its scale, the trial called “Marengo” was unprecedented in the Netherlands, observers said. A Dutch streaming platform even produced a series called “Mocro Maffia.” Three people associated with the prosecution's main witness, Nabil B., a former gang member, were murdered during the trial: his brother in 2018, his lawyer Derk Wiersum in 2019, and a well-known journalist, Peter R. de Vries, who is considered his lawyer confidant, in 2021. “All of this has largely overshadowed this trial,” the judge said.

However, these three murders are the subject of separate trials. Tuesday's verdict related to crimes committed between 2015 and 2017, mainly targeting people suspected by the gang of having become police informants. The murder of a man named Hakim Changachi in Utrecht in 2017 is viewed by prosecutors as a mistake. Shortly afterwards, Nabil B. went to the police and agreed to appear as a witness for the prosecution. He received 10 years in prison.

Ridouan Taghi was arrested in Dubai in 2019 and imprisoned in a high-security Dutch prison. Yet he continued to lead his gang from within, passing messages to his accomplices outside, according to the indictment. He is considered the mastermind of an international organized crime organization, some of whose roots lie in the Benelux countries. For his part, Ridouan Taghi has always denied the allegations and reiterated that the money spent on this “sham trial” should instead have been invested in education, police and health.