Dutch drug lord Ridouan Taghi has been sentenced to life

Dutch drug lord Ridouan Taghi has been sentenced to life in prison

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

Mr. Taghi was arrested in Dubai in 2019 and held 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 head of the network, some of whose roots lie in the Benelux countries and which is commonly called the “Mocro Maffia” because of the Moroccan origins of some of its members. In reality, it is a group of criminal groups that is considered one of the largest cocaine distributors in the Netherlands. Mr Taghi has always denied the allegations.

None of the suspects gave a statement during the trial, which was slowed by several twists and turns. Then Mr. Taghi's lawyer, Inez Weski, was arrested in April 2023 on suspicion of helping her client communicate with the outside world. New lawyers appointed later resigned, saying they had not had enough time to prepare. Mr. Taghi then decided to provide his own defense. The prosecutor's file ran to more than 800 pages, including evidence from Nabil B., a former member of the gang, and conversations over encrypted phones.

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Sixteen more convictions

The verdict was announced almost four 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.

Sixteen other suspects were given sentences ranging from life imprisonment to one year and nine months in prison. The seventeen men stood 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 victims’ relatives,” said the judge. Several defendants were in the courtroom to hear the verdict, but not Mr. Taghi.

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The “Marengo” process

Due to its scale, the process called “Marengo” is, according to observers, unprecedented in the Netherlands. A Dutch streaming platform has even produced a series, Mocro Maffia.

Three people associated with the main prosecution witness, Nabil B., were murdered during the trial: his brother in 2018, his lawyer Derk Wiersum in 2019, and a renowned journalist, Peter R. de Vries, in 2021 was considered his confidant. “That has greatly overshadowed this trial,” explained the judge. These three murders are the subject of separate trials. Tuesday's verdict related to crimes from 2015 to 2017, which were primarily aimed at people suspected by the gang of having become police informants.

The murder of 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 was sentenced to ten years in prison.

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The world with AFP

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