Tuesday, August 11, 2020

How a Quiet Corner of Northern Europe Became a Theatre of Extreme Drug Warfare

"MX" for Borderland Beat; VICE

Underworld violence is on the up in the otherwise peaceful countries of Belgium and the Netherlands – and it’s all linked to the international cocaine trade.

When, in early July, detectives discovered a secret torture chamber halfway between the giant ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam, it made a grim kind of sense that the room had been built in an old shipping container. The extreme gang violence that has been unravelling over the past decade in Belgium and the Netherlands is linked inextricably to the high seas, seeping out of the two ports and into the streets of the region’s major cities.

In 2019, the head of America’s Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) chose to visit Antwerp, alongside Colombia, to state his determination to push back against global drug gangs. A series of shootouts and explosions in the Belgian city – home to the second largest port in Europe – have led to the founding of a special task force to tackle the rising problem of underworld drug gang violence.

Rotterdam and Amsterdam have been hit by similar rises in open gang warfare. In Rotterdam, at least three men were shot dead in separate gangland-style killings this spring, while a building was peppered with bullets and then bombed. Police suspect the violence was related to the interception of 4,200 kilos of cocaine by the authorities in the port of Antwerp the previous month. In Amsterdam, there’s been a steady rise in underworld violence over the last eight years.

In 2014, crime lord Gwenette Martha was mowed down in a hail of more than 80 bullets outside a kebab shop; a severed head was left outside a café in 2016; an anti-tank rocket was fired into the offices of a major newspaper in 2018; and, in December of 2019, Derk Wiersum – the lawyer for a state witness in a major mob trial – was shot dead in front of his wife outside their home.

Insiders say the torture chambers found during the EncroChat busts supposedly belonged to an alliance of local criminals working against the Netherlands’ formerly most wanted man, Ridouan Taghi – a Dutch-Moroccan alleged mob boss arrested in 2019 on suspicion of murder and drug trafficking.

So how has such a modern, otherwise peaceful part of the world – known best for its waffles, flowers and clean streets – become home to a steady stream of gangland assassinations? The answer is cocaine.

A huge chunk of Europe’s coke comes through Rotterdam and Antwerp. In July of 2020, Dutch customs revealed they had seized double the quantity of the drug in the first six months of 2020 as the same time last year, mainly at the port of Rotterdam, while Antwerp is Europe’s main entry point for cocaine smuggled from South America. In 2019, a total of 61.8 tonnes of cocaine was intercepted at the sprawling 120-square-km port, a rise of 660 percent in five years.

“It’s a very fast movement of millions of containers through Antwerp,” says Bob Van den Berghe of the UN’s Container Control Programme. “Ships drop containers off in the port and quickly the ships are gone, which is an advantage for criminal organisations.”

An investigation in 2015 found that, at one point, smugglers had hacked into Antwerp’s security grid, allowing them to better plan smuggled cocaine shipments by tracking containers. There have also been instances of corruption at the port, with dock workers bribed or followed home and coerced by criminals.

As the profits from cocaine smuggling have spiralled, so has the violence. When a 200-kilo shipment was seized by Antwerp customs in 2012, the bust sparked a wave of shootings and retaliations across Belgium and the Netherlands, between an ensemble of mobsters who all suspected one another of ripping each other off.

By 2018, the murders of 30 people were linked to the feud, including that of Gwenette Martha. Two members of a Belgian crew known as the Turtles were kidnapped and filmed being tortured with a soldering iron. The war was later re-enacted in the 2018 Belgian black comedy, Gangsta. The situation was getting so bad that, in 2018, Antwerp authorities decided to beef up security and tackle port-side corruption.

However, they have admitted that they are still only finding, at most, just 10 percent of the cocaine trafficked through the port. From Antwerp, the drug is then taken to the Netherlands to be cut for distribution across Europe. In March, it was Antwerp and Rotterdam that drug smugglers initially flooded with cocaine from Colombia and Brazil in anticipation of a lengthy COVID-19 lockdown.

“The coronavirus did not stop the cocaine tsunami, and this year the maritime smuggling of cocaine is still on a very high level, in line with our record year of 2019,” the Administrator-General of Belgian Customs, Kristian Vanderwaeren, told VICE News. Global crime syndicates – from Belgian and Dutch drug businesses to Italian mafias, British firms and mobs from Africa and eastern Europe – have established permanent bases in Belgium and the Netherlands, to keep business running smoothly.

The torture chamber discovered in The Netherlands. Screenshot via police footage

And this mafia invasion, along with the subsequent violence, has sparked very real fears that the region is becoming something of a narco-state. The Netherlands has a long history with cocaine. In the early 1900s, the Dutch East India Company – having exploited and enslaved millions of people – began growing coca in its colonies in Indonesia. There was even a cocaine factory in Amsterdam, which supplied marching powder to all sides in World War One.

When international treaties finally put a halt to the Dutch’s rampant coke dealing, Rotterdam emerged as a key import site for the illicit trade of the drug from South America. And when port authorities started to clamp down on trafficking to Rotterdam, crime gangs began moving coke through Antwerp. Italy’s ‘Ndrangheta crime family has a foothold in both Antwerp and Rotterdam. According to mafia expert Dr Anna Sergi, the ‘Ndrangheta has established itself within communities of Calabrian immigrants from southern Italy, using restaurants and pizzerias to wash their money and maintain a presence without attracting too much attention.

“Normally, the ‘Ndrangheta are very hands-off,” said Sergi. “So you have certain key members who finance the [smuggling] operation, then they call the people they need and use their friends in local mafia groups to do their dirty work for them – and this is definitely the case in Antwerp.”

'Ndrangheta clans have also partnered with Brazil's most powerful crime syndicate, the First Command of the Capital (PCC), to ship cocaine through its coastal ports. Sharing borders with Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, as well as a long Atlantic coast, Brazil is now emerging as a jump-off point for the snowstorm bound for Europe.

But there are many other players in the coke business reaching out from these ports, such as Surinamese and Antillean gangs from the old Dutch colonies in South America and the Caribbean; the Italian Camorra mafia from Naples; the Irish Kinahan gang;  Kurdish and Turkish-Assyrian clans; Albanian mafiosi; as well as local Dutch and Belgian operations. Some of the most notorious participants are what local media have labelled the “mocro-maffia”, or Moroccan mafia.

The crew behind Antwerp’s coke war were a Moroccan hash-dealing family known as the Turtles, who were part of a wave of immigrants who’d come to the Netherlands and Belgium in the 1960s and 70s as gastarbeiders (guest workers), with a large contingent from the impoverished Rif mountains of northern Morocco.

Many were treated “like cattle”, and with no attempts to integrate them, they were moved to boarding houses or ghettos. Out of that hardship came a class of entrepreneurs who specialised in importing hashish from their home country.

“The mocro-maffia now are basically the children or grandchildren of those I worked with,” said Steve Brown, a retired hash kingpin, who – with his Rif partners – brought tonnes of weed into Amsterdam in the 1980s. “Back in my time, we were the ones sending cocaine to Morocco. I went there 20 times a year and brought it to dealers there, because they liked it. But 10 or 15 years ago, the [Colombian] cartels began using Africa and Morocco as a go-between to Europe. Several groups were already smuggling hash to Spain and Holland, so it was quite normal for these groups – who had the know-how, logistics and the corrupted port officials – to start moving the coke.”

According to Salima el Musalima, a female imam from the eastern Netherlands, the rise of the mocro-maffia was not just about money. “My dad was one of the early drugs pioneers in hashish smuggling from Morocco,” she told VICE News.

“It wasn’t just the money, because he was lousy at that. It's more the camaraderie, the dreams of making it big, the excitement, the whores, the rebel pirate lifestyle.” She said the alienation some young Dutch and Belgian-Moroccans feel is, in turn, another factor drawing them to crime.

“Many of the kids involved in drugs in my town have broken families. I see a lot of frustration: if you are a Moroccan youth, the media is against you,” she explained. “This is why the drugs world and the jihadists get a huge following. It offers the youth a platform where they are not the victim, but the aggressor. At a certain point, they say ‘f-you’ and enter the underworld, which has its own rules. The other alternative is jihad.”

Once reliant on Dutch networks for a piece of the cocaine pie, the importance of Antwerp as a cocaine port has led to the Belgians gaining more control over distribution itself. Their profits are reinvested in local businesses, especially in the poor immigrant quarters of Antwerp’s Borgerhout district. This has sparked a backlash from the far-right in Belgium, as well as the ire of the Flemish nationalist mayor, Bart de Wever, who’s set up a special task force to take on the gangs.

“The old-school rules and codes of conduct among the underworld no longer seem to apply,” says Dutch criminologist Dr Robby Roks, who has studied the underworld’s evolution over the past few decades.

“Gangs used to focus their attacks on those directly tied to organised crime themselves, not lawyers or family members. Some of the shootings have been in broad daylight, in close proximity to schools, and also a few times the wrong people were killed. This seems to have to do with the actual hitmen being younger and much less experienced.”

While this corner of Europe won’t see the kind of narco-bloodbath witnessed in countries like Mexico anytime soon, recent events suggest violence associated with the cocaine trade is only going to get worse.

57 comments:

  1. Bb. Here is an article of sex workers in Tijuana seeing Americans cross the border to have sex with them even amid the pandemic.
    This is so that everyone can see how Americans behave in foreing countries.
    https://www.ktsm.com/news/border-report/americans-still-going-to-mexico-for-sex-amid-pandemic/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 858 Maybe Mexico should outlaw prostitution then. You think Mexicans don’t visit the prostitution circuit?
      Mexican criminals are arrested all over the world as well .

      Delete
    2. Why are the sex trafficked girls working during the dam pandemic??? What’s your point?

      Delete
    3. México really isn’t a “foreing” country for Americans living along the border. USA ain’t got shit on how Mexicans behave in their own country.... EPN officially being investigated for corruption and bribery....

      GC

      Delete
    4. Americans add to the corruption in Mexico not to mention consume over half the shit sold all over the world.
      Stop playing soo fuckin innocent also and take some-keyword of the fucken blame for shit that happens there.

      Delete
    5. 731 your opinion with no facts

      Delete
  2. This is tied to the Encrochat thread LeChef started early July:
    http://borderland-beat-forum.924382.n3.nabble.com/746-arrested-only-in-UK-as-crime-EncroChat-network-cracked-td4114497.html#a4114586

    Regarding the torture cell, this is included in an article I linked in a comment on the thread:

    https://www.foxnews.com/world/dutch-police-uncover-torture-chamber-makeshift-prison-6-arrested

    So there is more detail on the forum if of interest.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The torture cell looks too clean and silvery, like for a Spacial Sexed up movie, like Moonraker, hard to believe it was ever used, no tools!

      Delete
  3. See not just USA
    users all around the world
    Horriable
    i wish a hugh earrthquake
    save innocents and start over
    but next time no greed no egos no gangs No Drugs

    ReplyDelete
  4. You forgot Montenegro. They have a lot of power and have been involved in the drug trade and currently at war with each other. It was one group until 2014 when 320 kilos of cocaine went missing in Valencia, Spain.

    A lot of huge busts around europe were drugs financed and for them.

    Actually the huge bust in Philadelphia was financed by them. Few of those arrested on the ship were Montenegrin.

    True story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You wright about them they are one of the most powerful players not only in Europe but global! They all belonged to Serbian mafia(Serbs from Montenegro)

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    2. The words Serbian and mafia put together made me cringe. If there was ever a group that could be as brutal as Mexican cartels I would say they’d be right up there with brutality.

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    3. Yeah idk how things dont escalate down there... there is also albanians

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    4. Yes they are. People don't realize the money and pull they have. They are involved everywhere even in South Africa. Granted, violence is not like MX but professional paid hits is common with sniper hits, car bombs,and straight up assassinations.

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    5. Yep! This gangsters from Serbia and Montenegro very professionals and can find anybody in every country in the world!

      Delete
    6. Greetings from Montenegro brothers;) happy too see you talking about us...

      -You are close to truth..

      Delete
    7. Yea groups from Montenegro and Serbia since the the 80s have a lot of gangland killings! They are very powerful worldwide!

      Delete
    8. 8:43 you do not have a Charter like the Corsicans, or the Buccaneering pirates sent by the British, but may have the more modern blessings of the Templars of Cyprus, please tell who are your Godfathers???

      Delete
    9. A warriors from the mountains

      Delete
  5. Coke is the lamest drug ever. For asshole-douchebags only! Everyone knows the worst asshole-douchebags are Euro-asshole-douchebags like dutchies and swissies and frenchies and russkies

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 1229 you a little racist boy aren’t ya

      Delete
    2. You racist son. Prolly cuz you inferior lol. Big bark no bite i bet

      Delete
    3. 7:03 up the ass, cocaine has a more superior effect, "they say",
      and 12:29 sure KNOWS!!!

      Delete
  6. Yesterday in news: https://nltimes.nl/2020/08/11/video-massive-cocaine-lab-busted-drenthe-village-17-suspects-arrested

    ReplyDelete
  7. Fifty years of Yankee's war on drugs has caused death, destruction and misery around the world. Thousands dead and locked in cages for using plant products that millions enjoy. Prohibition never has worked, never will.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Fack the Yankees,
      G00ggl3 where the Reds Catcher punches Alex on the snout

      Delete
  8. "How a Quiet Corner of Northern Europe Became a Theatre of Extreme Drug Warfare."
    That title is just ridiculous. The area is one of the busiest and most highly populated areas of the world.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I thought the Dutch legalized Drugs, but maybe not the Coke!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 3:44 legalized to collect taxes,
      gangsters sell cheaper and pay no taxes,
      People will always go for cheaper unless they are some rich snob children of the rich and beautiful snobs.
      Once you see the way african, moroccan, italian or spanish gangs are getting rich, the white supremacist aryan nationalists start getting greedy and very probably using the government and a "war on drugs" banana republic style to win the War FOR the Drugs trafficking business, as seen in Colombia, México or the US, made WORSER by today's DEA's Divide and Conquer poolitics.
      And many were bragging about the legal drug use, it is always about more and more customers for all their money.

      Delete
    2. Cannabis is tolerated in the Netherlands and is not legal and never has been. Hard drugs are frowned upon and dealt with severely

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    3. Nope. Drugs are illegal here, even marihuana (eventhough it is allowed).

      Delete
  10. People don’t reAlise Europe is really bad for drugs and has a lot of very rich criminals mostly from Russia Italy Ireland scotland England and Dutch most of them either live in Marbella in Spain or Holland there is big money to be made in Europe there has been lots of shootings in Spain and Holland between these gangsters the last 8+ years

    ReplyDelete
  11. You should all do some research on Daniel Kinahan

    ReplyDelete
  12. Many of the kids involved in drugs in my town have broken families. I see a lot of frustration: if you are a Moroccan youth, the media is against you,” she explained. “This is why the drugs world and the jihadists get a huge following. It offers the youth a platform where they are not the victim, but the aggressor.

    That’s puro BS, they always talk big mouth, but they aren’t victims, I worked for few years with street workers, waste of time and money, you should deport them with their families back to their home countries, you can’t educate them, some doing good for some time but falling back soon. Root cause are their parents and the way how educate people. 3 strikes and you are out!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 6:20 Wonderful blaming the parents, immigrants trying to have a better life for themselves and their families, usually lured to be used by rich or wannaberich entrepreneurs that then take the best of the best to do their drug trafficking.
      You need for once in your "perra vida" (your motherfacking life) to stop blaming the parents and focus on the BS and propaganda of the real culprits.

      Delete
    2. @10:19Typical liberal reply-avoid self accountability and blame others for your own failures. Get a grip and get it done.

      Delete
    3. Well he is rigt .. i live in the netherlands.. not one word he/ she said was lied.

      Delete
    4. Where would you get deported to? You probably think all your ancestors were born in the same country 😄 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂 ignorance is bliss

      Delete
    5. 3:33 i am a proud conservative, but not an extremist brainwashed victim follower of "republicans" who can't walk the talk because they've got Bone Spurs and money to pay former lover/prostitutes for their silence...

      Delete
    6. 3:33 libertarians are the dictatorial ones, always pushing for paternalistic divisiones, diversiones, and lies made to look better..
      Pinchis mamones...
      "it was all a lie" is a new book that may help you clear the cobwebs off your deluded "libertarian brain"...

      Delete
  13. Seriously, every other day we got seizures in Nederland. A ton is usual nowadays.

    Greetz from Amsterdam

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Soo no group runs Amsterdam? I mean there a lot of groups hah??

      Delete
    2. Yup, a lot of heads are going to roll in the nearby future. A lot of money lost leads to a lot of suspicion.

      Groetjes van je bijna buurman

      Delete
  14. Torture chamber these dudes don’t play

    ReplyDelete
  15. Chivis this is waaaay off topic but there hasn’t been much on el Ruso and Chapitos lately. Do you figure that situation has been settled or are they taking a break because the battle was creating too much heat?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well if the narco messages are true Mayo had RCQ take RUSO I imagine to do just that, quell the violence that became way to messy and high profile

      Delete
  16. I thought the D company controlled the drug trade in east Europe ?

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  17. Coke is a used from the wealthy people to free base form on the streets most poor. So a market is there.

    Very hard to get pure clean product unless you get it by the kilo of coarse but then they usually stamp or press it in a certain way to know. everytime I got it was different quality "cut" I hate the powder but liked the flake that melted in your nose and you could get a whif of gasoline

    ReplyDelete
  18. Shoot
    Marijuana and magic mushrooms are decriminalised, not legal. Hard drugs are not tolerated. Coke, Crack, and Smack are used in huge quantities across Europe.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. People on the US are famous for talking "SMACK",
      Then they the get those "Bone Spurs" that do not let them walk the talk.

      Delete
  19. Europe and the Americas are falling while China is rising..

    ReplyDelete
  20. MOKRO MAFFIA- google it;)you have tv show to....

    And yes...
    Greetings from
    Montenegro...

    ReplyDelete
  21. Of course, ever since their foundation, the west indias company has always known how to enslave, gateway drugs have never failed at refreshing the supply of pendejos ready for something worse, and keeping shit illegal makes sure nobody knows where the money goes, that no taxes get paid, and nobody can kidnap the rich narco-trillionaires for ransom

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Belgians mass murdered Africans in the Congo Belga,
      was it blamed on prince then King Rudolp?

      Delete
    2. 2:48 yes, the Belgians exterminated a few million africans, in Africa, but they needed to make room for themselves and their brethren, it is not like they enjoyed it.

      Delete

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