This morning I woke up to the news that Dutch crime journalist and investigator Peter R. De Vries, who is a celebrity and national hero to many victims of crime he has helped over his impressive 40 year career, has been shot 5 times of which one in the head, in broad daylight in a busy street in central Amsterdam. At the moment of writing Peter was still in critical condition in hospital. He died a few days later.
Peter is a tenacious investigator and journalist who has sometimes taken years to investigate a case and find new leads in cold cases, and stood by many victim’s families in their search for justice. He is at the moment involved in the huge Marengo court case around a Moroccan drugs gang who are accused of several murders and attempted murders since 2015, all of which happened in broad daylight in residential areas. For a long time these murders went on unchallenged because nobody was willing to talk, and there was not enough evidence. But this all changed when the brother of one of the main suspects was brutally murdered, who had no criminal ties whatsoever. This man, called Nabil B. suddenly came forward in 2017 to give evidence about all these liquidations, in exchange for lower sentencing. He then asked Peter R. De Vries to act as his advisor in the case, which Mr. De Vries accepted together with 2 lawyers.
The main suspect, Ridouan Taghi is thought to have been one of the leaders of this major crime gang, responsible for drug trafficking and at least 10 murders, under which Nabil B.’s brother and his lawyer Derk Wiersum. This murder caused a major uproar and is regarded a direct attack on the Dutch legal system. One other suspect is still out there with a prize of €100.000 on his head.
Now to me that is laughable. That amount of money is pocket money for those criminals who rake in millions a year and can easily avoid captivity by buying off people to keep them out of the hands of Dutch courts. This guy Taghi has been arrested and taken to the Netherlands in late 2019 in Dubai. The UIE does not have an extradition treaty with the Netherlands, so the only way to arrest him there and take him back was because he was travelling on a false passport.
Dubai is regarded a major magnet for criminal gangs from all over the world for that reason, as well as Marbella in Spain. The Dutch even have a special prosecutor permanently stationed there as Dutch drug gangs are said to be responsible for the majority of soft drugs imports from South America and North Africa. A large quantity of the world’s synthetic drugs are produced in the Netherlands and trafficked around the world. It is estimated that 18.8 billion Euros ($20.75 billion) worth of ecstacy are produced in Amsterdam alone. With this increased production and trade comes increased violence, and in the last 7 years to 2020 50 murders have been related to drug gangs in the wider Amsterdam area alone. Drug dealing and related violence is now taking place in broad daylight and mayors, police officers and lawyers being threatened, and as we have seen, killed by the gangs (Correa, 2020).
Ordinary citizens are getting hurt in the cross hairs, and lose trust in the police and court system to protect them. Correa (2020) writes in her article that 56% of Dutch citizens believe they live in a narco state and Jan Struijs, the chair of the biggest police union says: “If you look at the infrastructure, the big money earned by organized crime, the parallel economy. Yes, we have a narco-state.”
Off course cuts to police budgets and the judiciary in general is a big reason why the state don’t seem to get much progress on repressing this expanding drug trade. Cause let’s face it, that is all the state under capitalism can do, repress. What could be the answer to stop this from spiralling out of control? Legalisation and state regulation of drug production could be part of it, but I can imagine the cartels won’t be happy with that and will increase the violence to retain their market monopoly. This is a global problem which in my mind needs a global solution. And why do poppy farmers in Colombia and Peru grow poppies? Because it is more lucrative and they are being forced into it by the cartels. So just offering farmers an alternative is not necessarily going to work. I believe this problem needs tackling on all fronts, from the farmers to the users, and in the end, if people are offered better opportunities and lives generally they will take that over crime any day. So yes, and I’m sure I am boring for saying this but we need system change, socialism, for a better life for everyone.
It feels me with intense sadness to write this article about the country I love and grew up in. Since I left 11 years ago the violence has become increasingly worse, and no real change has been achieved to stop this stream of murders and the ocean of despair drugs cause in society. I have been a victim of this myself, and I feel a burning desire to do something about it.
For now I want to conclude by giving my solidarity and love to Peter R. De Vries and his family, my thoughts are with you and I feel even more determined to proceed to study and contribute to the Criminology community, and continue the important work Peter has done, and hopefully will continue to do for my home country.
Image credits Peter R. De Vries: DWDD, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Correa, G. (2020) ‘The Netherlands Is at Risk of Becoming a Narco State‘ Available at https://www.addictioncenter.com/news/2020/01/netherlands-narco-state/ (last accessed 07/07/2021).