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The Fall of Ridouan Taghi: The ‘Mocro Mafia’, The European Super-Cartel & The Iranian Hit Squad


One of the largest criminal trials in Dutch history concluded in recent months. On February 27th 2024, Ridouan Taghi, a 46-year-old Dutch-Moroccan and perhaps once Europe’s most powerful organised crime boss, was sentenced to life in prison along with two of his lieutenants, Saïd Razzouki and Mario Romo, for multiple murders and attempted murders across Utrecht and Amsterdam between 2015 and 2017.


During the nearly six-year investigation, Taghi most likely ordered the assassination of three more men associated with the state’s key witness Nabil Bakkali, who called it “the most diseased and poisoned trial ever.” Taghi is thought to have been involved in at least 20 murders over the last decade or so, including many in broad daylight, as well as multiple rocket launcher attacks on journalists and others. Iranian intelligence also likely enlisted Taghi’s help in assassinating at least two enemies of the Islamic Republic in Europe. The court noted that none of the surviving relatives of the gang’s victims chose to speak or submit a claim to the court, such is the culture of fear and silence Taghi cultivates. The court president described Taghi’s as a “world where human life has no value.” (Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, 2022; DutchNews, 2023; Holligan, 2024)

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Taghi’s operation spanned at least five continents and brought together a vast multinational array of criminal organisations. He networked with presidents, intelligence agencies, lawyers and Islamists just as easily as he did biker gangs, hit squads, traffickers and dealers. From his secret home in Dubai, Taghi linked Latin American narcotics producers with his European ‘super-cartel’ that connected his ‘Mocro Mafia’ clan with leading factions of the Italian Camorra, Irish Mob, and Bosnian mafia. Together, they controlled a third of the European cocaine trade. Despite Taghi’s role in this global drug trafficking network, InSight Crime suggests his conviction “will have little effect on the cocaine pipeline into Europe [as…] the infrastructure that Taghi helped create has continued to import cocaine in greater quantities even after the arrests and convictions of Taghi and others in his organization.” (den Held, 2024) 

The ‘Marengo’ mega-trial

The ‘Marengo’ mega-trial, named after the police codeword for the operation that arrested Taghi and other members of his drug cartel in 2019, began on March 11th 2021 shrouded in secrecy and with a heavy security presence. Involving 17 defendants and a case file surpassing 100,000 pages, sentences ranged from one year and nine months to life in prison. Taghi, also jailed for aggravated robbery and firearms offences, consistently topped the most-wanted lists of Interpol, Europol and the Netherlands, and was the subject of multiple international arrest warrants for years until his December 2019 arrest in Dubai and subsequent extradition. (1) In November 2018, Dutch police offered €100,000 (the highest reward in Dutch history) for information leading to the capture of either Taghi or Razzouki. Europol shared these images of Taghi and Razzouki while they were fugitives.

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Taghi had been living under the radar in Dubai with his wife and six children before he was detained in a night raid on his suburban mansion on December 16th after he entered the Gulf state using a fake ID. (2) Dutch police claimed his arrest followed intense international cooperation, particularly with the Emirati authorities. The day after his capture, six people were arrested across the Netherlands on money laundering, drugs and firearms charges. Razzouki was also captured by the FBI, DEA and national police in Medellín, Colombia in 2020, and extradited in 2021. He had been living under the protection of the Clan del Golfo cartel (3), allegedly purchasing cocaine from the Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia (AGC) and organising its export to Europe.


Mario Romo was arrested, along with his brother Mao Romo and an associate Alejandro P. (4), in Suriname in May 2019 by tactical armed police on Netherlands-based murder charges. Former president of Suriname Desiré Bouterse (2010–2020) was later convicted on corruption, murder and drug trafficking charges for his cooperation with Taghi through Mao, while Alejandro P. had been convicted in absentia for his involvement in the 2015 attempted assassination of Pjotr R. (see Mocro Mafia section). Surinamese police shared these images of Alejandro P., Mao Romo, and Mario Romo (left to right). Other members of Taghi’s network were arrested across the Caribbean and Latin America.

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Although Taghi was not in attendance at the high-security courthouse (nicknamed the ‘Bunker’), the eight present suspects arrived in armoured vehicles while heavily armed police in balaclavas and body armour stood guard, surveillance drones buzzing overhead. To conceal his identity, court cameras did not film the face of Bakkali, a former member of Taghi’s gang, who had become an informant and the state’s key witness in exchange for a lesser sentence of 10 years for his involvement in the murders. In March 2019, less than a week after Bakkali’s cooperation with prosecutors had been made public, his brother Reduan, a respected Amsterdam business owner, was shot dead after two failed attempts on his life. Dutch police released these CCTV images of his suspected killer, who had allegedly made an appointment for an internship at Reduan’s company, before and after the successful attack. He was arrested shortly thereafter.

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When his lawyer Derk Wiersum, a 44-year-old father of two, was murdered in broad daylight in front of his wife outside their suburban Amsterdam home in September 2019, there was discussion of whether the Netherlands was becoming a narco-state. An opinion poll suggested that 59% of Dutch citizens thought it already was one. The assassination was seen as an attack on civil society and the rule of law, prompting renewed criticism of the Netherlands’ drug economy. (5) This was not helped by the murder of prominent investigative journalist Peter R. de Vries, an advisor to Bakkali, in July 2021 following his departure from a central Amsterdam studio after an appearance on a popular TV programme, stoking fears of waning press freedoms. These murders, now the subject of separate trials, as well as serious attacks on other journalists (see Mocro Mafia section), greatly intensified the international manhunt for Taghi that would ultimately lead to his capture. (6)


Despite his prison’s high security, Taghi has managed to maintain contact with his organisation. Several prominent Dutch lawyers were accused in August 2020 of conveying messages between Taghi and his family in exchange for large sums of money, while in December 2020, the FBI informed Dutch police he had been communicating physically and electronically via bribed prison guards. In October 2021, Taghi’s relative and lawyer Youssef Taghi was arrested after secret listening devices and cameras installed after De Vries’ murder recorded them exchanging messages and discussing a breakout attempt. Inez Weski, another lawyer, was arrested in April 2023 on similar charges.


While in prison, Taghi reportedly developed a close bond with Mohammed Bouyeri, a Dutch-Moroccan Islamist serving life for the assassination of Dutch film director Theo van Gogh in 2004. Despite Bouyeri being transferred to another prison due to concerns about their relationship, they continued corresponding via letters. Gökmen Tanis, the Turkish perpetrator of a mass shooting on a Utrecht tram in 2019, also sent at least one letter to Taghi. Many of these letters consisted of Qur’anic verses and some were rejected by the prison over fears they contained coded messages. (Amoruso, 2019b; BBC News, 2019, 2021; Holligan, 2019b, 2021, 2024; NL Times, 2020a, 2022, 2023a; RTL Boulevard, 2020a; Omvlee, 2022; den Held, 2023, 2024)

Organised Crime in the Netherlands & the European ‘super-cartel’

Several incidents in recent years had already suggested an escalation in the brutality and brazenness of criminal violence. In 2012, two young boys were killed in a Kalashnikov shootout where bullets ricocheted off walls, while separately a mother was murdered in front of her children. In 2016, a severed head was found outside a shisha café, “turned so that his face looked through the windows,” a day after his decapitated body was found in a burnt-out car. (Henderson, 2016) The so-called Mocro Mafia, with which Taghi is affiliated, are the source of much of the most grievous violence. Although overall murders in Europe have declined sharply in the last two decades, killings linked to the drug economy have not. The total number of drug-related killings is small, but their frequent goriness and links with immigrant communities create the impression of a crime wave, claims Marieke Liem of the Leiden University-based Violence Research Initiative. “There are no written contracts and no court of settlement, so if there is a dispute, either people reach an agreement or you get violence,” says Jan Meeus, a Dutch crime reporter. (The Economist, 2021)


The Netherlands has long been a hub for the global flow of narcotics. The Dutch drugs trade flourished as criminals benefitted from its lenient drug laws and penalties, extensive transport network, and proximity to several lucrative markets in continental Europe and the UK. This fuelled the growth of powerful crime syndicates. Latin American cartels would ship drugs to West Africa before Moroccans trafficked them north via old smuggling routes, utilising their family connections with young Dutch-Moroccan émigrés to then bring the narcotics to the Netherlands. Starting in the 1990s, Moroccan hashish smuggling networks began trafficking cocaine and importing soft drugs from Latin America and North Africa through their relationships with Colombian and Mexican cartels. Over the next three decades, they established distribution operations stretching from Spain to Scandinavia.


According to US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) documents sent to Dutch police, Taghi was a founder and leader of a European ‘super-cartel’ that connected factions of the Italian Camorra, Irish Mob, and Bosnian mafia. The network, headed by Taghi, Raffaele Imperiale (left) (a top Camorra drugs and arms dealer), Daniel Kinahan (below) (the most powerful Irish organised crime boss), and Edin ‘Tito’ Gačanin (right) (a major Balkan drug trafficker), was one of the largest in the world. (7) With a virtual monopoly over Peruvian cocaine in their heyday, the network controlled around a third of the European cocaine trade – amounting to the import of an estimated 33 tonnes of cocaine per year – primarily shipping drugs through ports in the Netherlands. Among other trafficking activities, the super-cartel also established an investment fund for cocaine shipments to pool the financial risk of detection and loss. (Amoruso, 2019a; Caesar, 2023; den Held, 2024)

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The EU’s 2021 European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) report determined police are now confiscating more cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy and crystal meth than ever. Cocaine seizures in the Netherlands grew from around 10 tonnes per year in 2008–2010 to 60 tonnes in 2023. Recent growth has been particularly rapid as coca cultivation in South America has increased along with consumption in the Netherlands, while Dutch retail prices have remained fairly stable. In 2019, customs officers at Rotterdam port seized 34 tonnes of cocaine. In 2020, they seized almost 41 tonnes. Dutch public prosecutors released this image of just under 1.5 tonnes (1,457kg) of cocaine intercepted at Rotterdam port over three days in 2019.

In one week in mid-2021, 2.7 tonnes were discovered hidden among Ecuadorian bananas and Malaysian computer parts, while at Vlissingen port, divers found a crate chained underwater to a freighter. Previously, couriers would sneak in to collect drugs from shipping containers, but nowadays, gangs are more likely to infiltrate a large logistics company, acquire trucking certification, and drive out with the whole container. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this process of organisational scaling. As the EMCDDA’s Andrew Cunningham pointed out at the time: “You can’t have people swallowing packages of drugs and flying in from Latin America any more. That’s why we see so much coming in with the banana shipments.” (The Economist, 2021) Still, only 10-15% of cocaine entering major European seaports is seized, according to police and trafficker estimates. (Caesar, 2023)


Potency has increased too. On average in Europe between 2009 and 2019, cannabis had 56% more THC, cocaine was 57% purer, and ecstasy pills contained almost 2.5x as much MDMA. According to the EMCDDA, cocaine is Europe’s second-most popular illegal drug after cannabis, and the most lucrative. (Holligan, 2019b; The Economist, 2021) Although cocaine must still be imported, the Netherlands is considered a world leader in the production of synthetic drugs. A significant portion of the global supply of MDMA/ecstasy, LSD, amphetamines, GHB and crystal meth is manufactured there. In 2017, this supply had a street value of €18.9bn ($22bn). The speed and sophistication of their global distribution networks is notable. As Jan Struijs, chairman of the biggest Dutch police union, explained, “On the day Donald Trump became president, the first distinctive orange 'Trumpies' ecstasy tablets were found in Schiphol; 24 hours later they were on sale in Australia.” In August 2017, police in the German city of Osnabrück intercepted 5000 such tablets, pictured below.

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"There are a lot of Mexicans helping to produce crystal meth in the Netherlands. You see a cocaine dump in Venezuela and Suriname, you see very low prices in Amsterdam, Liverpool and Manchester. Every gram you buy goes to organised crime and to funding these drug cartels," Struijs claims. (Holligan, 2019b) Although methamphetamines are relatively rare in Europe, crystal meth, particularly a cheap version made from the wild-growing ephedra plant in Afghanistan, was making inroads until the Taliban banned the harvesting of ephedra in 2021. (The Economist, 2021; Kennedy and Southern, 2023)


Although the Netherlands cannot truly be said to be a narco-state – where the economy is dependent on the illegal drugs trade – the industry increasingly exerts an outsized influence on society. While a mayor-commissioned report in August 2019 described Amsterdam as a “Valhalla for drugs criminals,” Dutch Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus downplayed this idea, saying the Netherlands was not yet a narco-state but warned it was in danger of becoming one.


Police union chief Jan Struijs disagreed: “We definitely have the characteristics of a narco-state. Sure we’re not Mexico. We don’t have 14,400 murders. But if you look at the infrastructure, the big money earned by organised crime, the parallel economy. Yes, we have a narco-state… We knew it was coming – lawyers, mayors, police officers – we’ve all been threatened by organised crime. All the alarms have been sounding but the politicians have been naive. Now it’s rotting the concrete of our society.” Wouter Laumans, an expert on Amsterdam organised crime, tentatively agreed with Struijs: “We don't have bodies dangling from bridges, but we do have corruption in the docks, violence against lawyers, threats to journalists. It definitely has some of the characteristics of a narco-state lite."


Roberto Saviano, a renowned chronicler of the Camorra underworld of Naples, argues mafia influence in Amsterdam is even more rampant, if less visible: “The Dutch financial system offers more fiscal shadows in which criminals can thrive. There are clans from all over the world, because the Netherlands is one of the most important transit ports. They all know whoever controls the Netherlands has one of the arteries of the global drug market.” Most ringleaders operate internationally while using their domestic influence to recruit and control ever younger contract killers. Although police understand this, Struijs claims they don’t have the means to intervene. Budget cuts as well as the loss of youth prevention teams have led young people to fall under the radar before they end up “helping with liquidations,” he claims. (Holligan, 2019b)

The ‘Mocro Mafia’ & the Rise and Fall of Ridouan Taghi

Wouter Laumans and Marijn Schrijver coined the term Mocro Mafia in a 2014 book on the rise of a new generation of Amsterdam criminals of mostly Moroccan and Caribbean descent. (8) (Laumans and Schrijver, 2014) As Laumans explains, “It's street slang. Young Moroccans call each other 'Mocro'. We came up with Mocro Mafia to encapsulate what the book was about. Now I see they're using it in police reports. But it's not only Moroccans. It's about young boys growing up in areas of Amsterdam where tourists never go. It's not canals, the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh. It's the housing estates. They don't have the same opportunities. They are aspirational, they are looking for a career in the underworld… It's about opportunities in society. They're no different from bankers or journalists, they want to make money. If you aren't a good football player or don't have the brains to wrestle yourself out of that world, this is their means. It's not just a drug problem, it's a social problem.” (Holligan, 2019b)


Ridouan Taghi was the kingpin of arguably the most powerful of the Mocro Mafia clans, each structured primarily around a family or regional affiliation. He allegedly made his fortune by inheriting or gaining control of a smuggling line and switching from primarily trafficking cannabis to cocaine around 2008, which generated more money, but also inevitably more violence. Informants allege much of this cocaine is shipped from Panama via Morocco to Europe. Born in north Morocco in 1977, Taghi moved to Utrecht in the Netherlands as a young child and joined a youth gang in his teens, selling hashish on the street. By 2013, he was a major trafficker and dealer in the booming Dutch cocaine trade and had been linked to a murder in Spain, allegedly of his relative following a disagreement over a drug shipment. In 2014, he was linked with two further killings – one of 22-year-old student Mohammed Alarasi, in a failed attack on Utrecht criminal Samir Jabli in January, and another, the successful assassination of Jabli in December. Serious investigation into Taghi began in June 2015 when drug trafficker Ebrahim Buzhu reported him and Razzouki to Dutch police. Buzhu had allegedly helped kidnap a café owner friend of Taghi in 2009 and ended up on his hit list. He was murdered in Spain in January 2022.


Taghi emerged from the vacuum left by the imprisonment of many of the older penose (9) generation of native Dutch gangsters like Willem Holleeder (left), notorious for the 1980s kidnapping of beer tycoon Freddy Heineken. (Holligan, 2019a) Other rival crime bosses were eliminated by assassination in 2014, including Gwenette Martha in the Netherlands and Samir Bouyakhrichan in Spain, allegedly at the behest of Taghi and his close associate Naoufal Fassih (centre), head of the Noffel clan. Together with ‘Rico the Chilean’ (right) (see note 7), they then sought to destroy the Bouyakhrichan clan completely, according to Dutch authorities, pursuing Samir’s brother Karim who had inherited the organisation. Naima Jillal, another notable member of the Bouyakhrichan clan, disappeared in 2019 after she allegedly tipped off police about rival organisations’ drug shipments. Images then supposedly circulated on the Internet of her body being dismembered. Authorities believe she is buried under the concrete floor of a warehouse in the port of Antwerp in Belgium where forensic scientists found pieces of clothing and a handbag she is thought to have owned.

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By 2015, Taghi was living abroad in an unknown location, just as his name began entering police reports (10) and the scale of his organisation was beginning to be revealed. Thought to have been one of the Netherlands’ biggest drug cartels, Taghi’s gang included gunmen and drivers as well as corrupt officials who provided insider information. According to the court, the gang’s murders (‘liquidations’) were highly sophisticated, using spotters, sounding beacons and surveillance equipment. Investigators claim Taghi was involved in at least 20 killings in recent years. Marengo trial prosecutors convicted him of ordering the assassination of seven people, five successfully, throughout the Netherlands over 18 months between 2015–2016, and planning more. Some of these were part of a wave of tit-for-tat killings that followed the theft of a cocaine shipment from the port of Antwerp in Belgium in 2012, dubbed the ‘Mocro War’ by the media. Criminal rivals as well as associates who defaulted on debts or talked to police or enemies were also primary targets of violence. In some cases, young children were present when their fathers were shot dead.


In late 2015, after Ronald Bakker, an employee of a ‘spy shop’ Taghi’s gang frequented, revealed information about his clients at the police’s orders, Taghi ordered his assassination and prepared a rocket launcher attack on his premises in North Holland. Despite the suspects being arrested before the latter attack, Bakker was nonetheless murdered shortly thereafter. In another assassination attempt, Pjotr R. survived being shot multiple times with an AK-47 by a balaclava-wearing gunman while driving in the middle of the day. Taghi had at least four more people killed in mid-2016. Two were local criminals – Abderrahim Belhadj, murdered for stealing two bricks of cocaine, and Samir Erraghib for talking to police. (11) One was a friend of Buzhu and former hitman of Taghi’s, Ranko Scekic, scheduled to testify against the gang a few days later. The last was Wout Sabee for unclear reasons. In December 2016, criminal-turned-blogger Martin Kok (right) was assassinated in an affluent town in North Holland after two failed attempts on his life. Kok had found a bomb underneath his car before it detonated in mid-2016 while the assassin’s gun had jammed earlier the same day in December. He had recently published pieces about members of Taghi and members of his gang on his blog Vlinderscrime.


Between December and January, Taghi attempted to murder two more men. Khalid B., who was known to be seeking revenge for Erraghib’s death, survived an invasion of his Rotterdam home by multiple armed men. Separately, Khalid H. escaped an assassination attempt, while his flatmate Hakim Changachi was killed. Nabil Bakkali’s involvement as a driver in the latter botched attack brought the ire of Taghi, whose alliance with the local Changachi crime family had soured as a result. Upon discovering he was on Taghi’s hit list, Bakkali turned state’s evidence. Justin Jap Tjong, said to have been another driver in the Changachi killing, was supposedly lured by Ferrel T. and Guyno O., the convicted shooters, to a location in Amsterdam under the false pretence of a ‘last job’, before another man killed him. Prosecutors believe the shooters had to kill Jap Tjong to be spared from reprisals for Changachi’s murder.


From January–July 2017, prosecutors allege Taghi ordered the assassinations of at least four Dutch criminals, including Jap Tjong, via the one-percenter/outlaw Dutch motorcycle club Caloh Wagoh. They claim Caloh Wagoh foreman Delano ‘Keylow’ R. acted as a “murder broker”, accepting assassination orders, distributing them to the club’s three “murder squads”, and organising several successful hits. Tony de G., a member of one of these squads arrested in Spain for the murder of Jaïr Wessels in a Breukelen parking lot, turned state’s evidence in the massive ‘Eris’ trial against 12 members of the motorcycle club. In addition to Wessels, members were charged with the murders of Zeki Yumusak, in Rotterdam, and Farid Souhali, in The Hague, as well as six attempted murders. Caloh Wagoh has been linked with another six or seven murders not mentioned in the indictment. De G. claims ‘Keylow’ had a hit list with some 50 names, and all but one were from Taghi. (NL Times, 2020c, 2021; ANP, 2022)

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In November, a failed assassination attempt on Mustapha El Fechtali, a Bouyakhrichan clan money launderer, at La Crème, a café in Marrakech he owned, by two masked hitmen killed Hamza Chaib, a 26-year-old medical student and son of a Moroccan judge, and injured two others. The shooters were identified by Moroccan police as Shardyone Ulises Girigorio Semerel, a Dutch-Surinamese national, and Edwin Gabriel Robles Martínez, a Dutch-Dominican, both later sentenced to death. (12) The suspects exposed Taghi as their ringleader, likely following torture by Moroccan police, leading to a brother of Taghi also being jailed. Dutch and Moroccan authorities increasingly coordinated to combat organised crime thereafter, with a particular focus on Taghi’s organisation. (Morocco World News, 2019; NL Times, 2020a)


In mid-2018, the headquarters of two Dutch news publications were attacked after they reported on Taghi’s clan – Panorama with a rocket launcher, and De Telegraaf in a vehicle ramming and arson attack. Caloh Wagoh was implicated in both attacks. In the wake of these incidents, John van den Heuvel (left), a former De Telegraaf crime correspondent who had helped expose Taghi’s name and the inner workings of his organisation, again repeated his name on Dutch television: “Ridouan Taghi is the most wanted criminal in the Netherlands. Every time we say or write something about him, there are consequences, attacks and threats. When you are a journalist who writes about him, you take risks of getting murdered.” Taghi placed a large bounty on his life following this statement, and the death threats he had already been facing became increasingly credible. After the police discovered a loaded rocket launcher prepared for an attack on his home at a residence associated with infamous armed bank robber Yassine A., van den Heuvel cancelled a TV programme he presented and maintained a heavy security presence. (Amoruso, 2019b; Holligan, 2019b, 2024; NL Times, 2020b; RTL Boulevard, 2020b; Vugts, 2020; den Held, 2024)

Iranian Hit Squad

Citing strong evidence from its intelligence service AIVD, the Dutch government claims Taghi also collaborated with Iranian intelligence to assassinate at least two enemies of the Islamic Republic on European soil. Using fast private yachts, Taghi would frequently make the 150km trip from Dubai to Iran wherein he was protected via a network of government safe houses, alleges the Dutch Ministry of Justice. He was supposedly afforded this level of privilege due to his instrumental role in the elimination of some of Iran's most wanted enemies of the state.

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On the morning of December 15th 2015, while 56-year-old electrician Ali Motamed was loading equipment into his van outside his home in the small city of Almere outside Amsterdam, he was shot in the head by a hitman who then fled in a waiting car which was later found abandoned and burnt out. Motamed, who had settled in the Netherlands as a refugee, was the alias of Mohammad Reza Kolahi Samadi (above), the man Iranian authorities believed to be the mastermind of the 1981 bombing of the Islamic Republican Party headquarters in Tehran. Killing 74 leading officials, including Chief Justice Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti, the second-most powerful man in the Islamic Republic, as well as four cabinet ministers and 27 members of parliament, it was one of the deadliest attacks in modern Iranian history. Samadi was a member of the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran, or Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), an exiled Iranian dissident group founded in 1965 by students opposed to the Shah and subsequently the Islamic Republic.


According to decrypted communications from one of the perpetrators’ mobile phones, Samadi was killed on the orders of Taghi’s close associate Naoufal Fassih, while the two hitmen, who had extensive criminal records and longstanding underworld ties, were not aware of Motamed's true identity despite their monitoring him. Dutch authorities viewed Fassih as integral to the connection between Taghi and Iranian intelligence. Irish police arrested him in 2016 at a Kinahan-clan-linked property in Dublin at which he was residing. He had reportedly been receiving financial support from ‘Rico the Chilean’, another friend of Taghi (see note 7). In 2019, the two hitmen were sentenced to 20 and 25 years in prison each, while Fassih received a life sentence for the murder, having already received 18 years for the attempted murder of a rival the year prior.

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Meanwhile, Ahmad Mola Nissi (above), who had been living in the Netherlands for more than a decade, was shot dead by an assassin in front of his home in The Hague in 2017. Nissi was the leader of the Dutch faction of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of al-Ahwaz (ASMLA). (13) The ASMLA, founded in 1999, is one of several separatist insurgent groups seeking to create an Arab state in and around Iran’s southwestern Khuzestan Province. It is classified as a terrorist group by the Iranian government. Dutch investigators claimed a Rotterdam-based criminal organisation collaborating with Iran was responsible for his assassination. In the context of rising tensions between the two countries, the Dutch government expelled two Iranian intelligence operatives masquerading as diplomats in June 2018. (BBC News, 2018; Amoruso, 2019a; den Held, 2024)

Footnotes & Works Cited (MLA-style)

[1] Technically Taghi was not extradited as the United Arab Emirates lacks an extradition treaty with the Netherlands. Instead, the UAE deported him, having declared him persona non grata after he entered the country under a false identity.


[2] Taghi frequently altered his appearance and used multiple false passports and visas to evade capture.


[3] As well as La Oficina de Envigado, an ex-enforcement wing of Pablo Escobar’s Medellín Cartel. Razzouki had avoided using Internet-connected technology for eight years, regularly moved safe-houses, and had made himself look older via cosmetic surgery. Colombian authorities tracked him down using intelligence planes that regularly flew over the city of Medellín, the same way they traced and killed Escobar in 1993.


[4] The full names of defendants and witnesses cannot be revealed under Dutch law. Europol arrest warrants had previously identified Taghi and Razzouki, however, while others’ full names have been released in non-Dutch media coverage. Bakkali’s name was exposed by the death of his brother.


[5] A few days after Wiersum’s murder, another Dutch lawyer, Philippe Schol, was shot in the leg in a drive-by shooting while walking his dog near his home across the border in Germany.


[6] Ridouan Taghi’s brother Anouar was sentenced to 26 years in prison for complicity in the murder of Wiersum, along with eight other suspects for various crimes. The shooters, Moreno B. and Giermo B., who had been following Wiersum for several weeks, were sentenced to 30 years in prison in a separate trial. They are also suspected of killing two members of the rival Bouyakhrichan clan, of which Mustapha El Fechtali is a member, in Suriname in the same year (see Mocro Mafia section). (NL Times, 2023b, 2024) In De Vries’ killing, prosecutors allege Dutch-Antillean Delano G. was the shooter, while Polish national Kamil E. carried out surveillance beforehand and was a getaway driver. Delano is supposedly related to the leader of Taghi’s hit squad. Seven other men are also part of De Vries’ ongoing murder trial expected to conclude in June 2024. (AFP, 2024)


[7] Imperiale was arrested in Dubai in August 2021, extradited to Italy in March 2022, and is currently facing a 14-year sentence for drug trafficking in a trial in which he’s turned state’s evidence. (Tondo, 2023) Gačanin was jailed for 7 years by Dutch police in December 2023, having been arrested in Dubai on similar charges. (Sarajevo Times, 2023) Kinahan is still wanted by the Irish police, having fled Dubai in July 2020. Authorities’ decryption of encrypted communication networks also revealed a close personal friendship and business relationship between Taghi and Dutch-Chilean cartel boss Richard ‘Rico the Chilean’ Eduardo Riquelme Vega. Vega was arrested in 2017 and sentenced to 11 years in Dutch prison in 2021 for money laundering and leading an assassination ring. (Caesar, 2023)


[8] Dutch-Caribbean gangsters are primarily from the Dutch Antilles (now semi-autonomous islands in the Kingdom of the Netherlands). Others are from the former Dutch colony of Suriname in South America. (The Economist, 2024)


[9] penose is slang from the old Amsterdam Bargoens cant language and refers to organisations formed by criminals of Dutch descent.


[10] A Dutch investigation into an organised criminal hit squad revealed Taghi’s name, but he was not charged. He had been living abroad officially since 2009.


[11] International cooperation following Canadian authorities’ decryption of the PGP-encrypted servers of Ennetcom, whose software Taghi’s clan used for communication, enabled Dutch authorities to uncover Taghi’s role in the murders of Erraghib and others in 2016.


[12] Morocco has had an unofficial moratorium on capital punishment since 1993, however.


[13] Another ASMLA faction is based in Denmark and has similarly been the target of attacks by Iranian intelligence.


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Amoruso, D. (2019a) ‘Iran allegedly protects Moroccan Dutch drug gangsters it used to murder its “enemies of the state” abroad’, Gangsters Inc., 27 October. Available at:

Amoruso, D. (2019b) ‘Profile of Moroccan drug boss Ridouan Taghi - “He who talks, goes. And everyone around him goes to sleep”’, Gangsters Inc., 17 December. Available at:

ANP (2022) ‘OM eist levenslang tegen “lokkers” liquidatie Amsterdamse Justin Jap Tjong’, Het Parool, 21 April. Available at:

BBC News (2018) ‘The story behind Iran’s “murder plot” in Denmark’, BBC News, 31 October. Available at:

BBC News (2019) ‘Dutch gangster case: Shock at murder of lawyer Derk Wiersum’, BBC News, 18 September. Available at:

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