Organized crime

Mocro Maffia, the Dutch mafia shedding blood on Amsterdam's streets

This organization is the main suspect in the shooting of journalist Peter R. de Vries

3 min
Dutch journalist Peter R. de Vries, during a conference last month

SabadellThe Dutch journalist Peter R. de Vries has been in a struggle between life-and-death since he was shot five times, including once in the head, on a street in central Amsterdam on Tuesday afternoon. Police are holding two suspects (including the perpetrator of the attack), but have not yet released their identities. In any case, all eyes are on the Mocro Maffia, a group of criminal organizations that base their business on drug trafficking (especially cocaine) and that in recent years had been the target of De Vries' journalistic investigations. These gangs, mainly made up of people of Moroccan origin, have their epicentre in the port of Rotterdam (through which they import the substances that they then distribute in Europe) and operate above all in the Netherlands and Belgium, but their tentacles reach Latin America and also the Costa del Sol, one of the traditional entry points for drugs in Europe.

At the head of the main Mocro Maffia clan, known as the Angels of Death is Ridouan Taghi, a man with dual Dutch and Moroccan nationality who, before his arrest in Dubai in 2019, was considered the most wanted criminal in the Netherlands. Taghi is on trial for his alleged involvement in 11 murders, including that of lawyer Derk Wiersum, who was shot in September 2019 as he was leaving his home in Amsterdam. Wiersum was the legal representative of Nabil B., a repentant member of the Mocro Maffia who had agreed to testify against Taghi and had thus become a key player in the trial. Two years earlier, Nabil B.'s brother, who had no links to organised crime, had also been shot in the head and killed.

De Vries also has a very close relationship with Nabil B.: he was his "person of trust", a legal figure aimed at advising a person during a judicial process and making him a spokesperson. In 2019, the journalist had revealed that his name appeared on Taghi's blacklist as a person to be eliminated, even though the alleged criminal denied it. "I am not afraid, but Nabil's brother and his former lawyer were killed, so it is better not to get hysterical thinking that something could happen. It's part of the job", De Vries told the Dutch magazine Vrij Nederland.

More than one hundred victims

The Mocro Maffia (named by Dutch writer Marijn Schrijver in a book of the same name about these gangs published in 2014) began operating during the 1990s, but it was from 2012 that it consolidated its power. That year, the theft of a shipment of 200 kilos of cocaine in the Belgian port of Antwerp was the origin of a confrontation between gangs that spilt blood in Amsterdam and other Dutch cities and did not decrease in intensity until 2017, when the Taghi's rise began. The death toll of this war (which crossed borders and even reached Barcelona, where there was a murder linked to the Mocro Maffia in July 2018) exceeds one hundred, and includes some innocent people who were killed by mistake. One of the most gruesome episodes of this battle was the appearance of a decapitated head outside a bar in central Amsterdam.

The seriousness of the situation was reflected in a report that the Dutch National Police Union sent to the country's Congress in 2018 in which it warned that the Netherlands had "many traits of a narco-state". "Petty drug criminals are transformed into wealthy entrepreneurs in the hotel, real estate and recreational market. Drug trafficking is proliferating and with the current [police] forces only one in nine criminal groups in the sector can be arrested", the document said.

A year later, the situation had not improved. "We have, without a doubt, the characteristics of a narco-state", said the President of the police union, Jan Struijs told the BBC–. We are not Mexico, of course. We don't have 14,400 murders. But if you look at the infrastructure, the amount of money coming in from organized crime and the parallel economy, yes, we have a narco-state.

The Heineken Hijacking

The Mocro Maffia has so far been the latest target of 64-year-old Peter R. de Vries, but his long career as an investigative journalist had already led him to confront other organized criminal groups, in this case of Dutch origin, known as the penose. The most emblematic case was the 1983 kidnapping of businessman Freddy Heineken, President and main shareholder of the brewing company founded by his grandfather and bearing his surname. De Vries published several articles on the case for the newspaper De Telegraaf. He wrote two books and even managed to track down one of the perpetrators of the kidnapping, who had fled to Paraguay, and bring him to justice. In 2014, another of the kidnappers, Willem Holleeder, one of the country's most notorious criminals, was convicted of threatening De Vries, who had collaborated in the investigation of the five murders he was accused of, including that of his former friend, brother-in-law and partner in the Heineken kidnapping, Cor van Hout. Holleeder was sentenced to life imprisonment for these deaths.

The journalist became very popular in the Netherlands thanks to the television programme Peter R. de Vries, misdaadverslaggever [crime reporter], which aired between 1995 and 2012 and investigated crime cases.