Some criminal masterminds appear out of nowhere. Ridouan Taghi is that type of gangster. The Moroccan-Dutch drug boss wasn’t known to the public or police until he had already flooded Europe with drugs and littered the streets with bullet-riddled bodies. It wasn't long before he became one of Europe's most wanted fugitives.
Born on December 20, 1977, in Morocco and raised in the small Dutch city of Vianen, Taghi allegedly eased into his role as one of Europe’s biggest narcotics traffickers by inheriting the routes his grandpa used to smuggle hashish from Morocco to Europe. This is vehemently denied by Taghi’s lawyer, however, who says Taghi’s grandfather was a respected mayor until his retirement.
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If this is how Taghi got his start in the underworld then he was able to keep an extremely low profile for a very long time. The first time his name is mentioned in a police report is in 2015 when authorities bust a hit team which committed murders ordered by organized crime bosses. Taghi was never charged in that investigation.
The Moroccan Keyser Söze
Still, he was finally on police’s radar. Not that it helped them build a case, though. Just like the fictional Keyser Söze, Taghi had already vanished without a trace. In 2009 he officially left the Netherlands to move somewhere abroad. Where? Nobody knows. Police believe he is traveling under several false identities and might be staying anywhere from Mexico and Colombia to Dubai.
After 2015, investigators step up their game and with the help of several informants, they are able to paint a more complete picture of Taghi’s personality and career. One turncoat says Taghi gets his cocaine from Panama and ships it via Morocco into Europe.
What stuns investigators most is how much violence Taghi uses to run his organization. Even against his own inner circle. He allegedly had a relative killed in Spain in 2013 due to a disagreement over a drug shipment, one informant tells investigators.
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By talking about these crimes, the informant earns himself and his family a death sentence as well, he confides in police. “He who talks, goes. And everyone around him goes to sleep,” Taghi allegedly told him.
Six days after his cooperation agreement is made public, an assassin murders the informant’s brother at his legitimate company in Amsterdam. The killer had made an appointment for an internship, but instead shot the man for the life choices of his brother. He was caught on security cameras and arrested shortly thereafter.
Attacking his enemies and the media
If the rumors and testimony are to be believed, Taghi is a man who rules by sheer force and terror. Dutch authorities believe he is also behind the attacks on the offices of newspaper De Telegraaf and weekly magazine Panorama, after both outlets published stories about his activities.
More proof of his Taghi’s lust for violence came in 2016 when authorities cracked the Canadian servers of Ennetcom, a company that provided encryption software for mobile phones used by Taghi and members of his organization. The text messages were encrypted with Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) but, once decoded, gave investigators an inside look at Taghi’s aggressive leadership style.
Taghi’s brothers are also part of his criminal enterprise and frequently send texts on his behalf. Taghi is called Pat, short for “Patrón” or boss, by his underlings during these chats about murder and mayhem.
“Pat just told me that he’s gonna pay you guys handsomely, sir,” Taghi’s brother Morad writes to a member of a murder team. “Pat even said that if you do him in broad daylight you will get paid even better. You deserve it. You show more than any of my crews ever did. You’ve got balls and know what you have to do. You work well together. I love it. That’s working.”
After the 2016 killing of Samir Erraghib, who was shot to death in front of his little daughter, Taghi himself writes to one of his underlings: “Serves that son of a bitch right. Giving up information on our group.”
The man agrees, replying: “He’s a first-class snitch.”
Taghi loves murder. Investigators claim he is involved in at least twenty hits in the past few years. But his eagerness causes his hitmen to make fatal errors. On two different occasions in 2017 they murdered the wrong man. One innocent man was shot to death in Utrecht, the Netherlands, while a second man was blasted to death in Marrakech in Morocco.
The Moroccan victim turned out to be the son of a judge and authorities there began a vicious hunt for the killers. They arrested a slew of men. Police in Morocco have a reputation for using torture to get the information they desire and it didn’t take them long to flip one assassin and get him to spill the beans on Taghi and his brothers, who were arrested soon after.
The big boss man, though, remained elusive. In November of 2018, Dutch police offered the highest reward in the country’s history: €100,000 euros for information leading to his capture or the arrest of his second-in-command Said Razzouki. Taghi was also placed on Europol’s list of Most Wanted criminals.
Far away, out of reach from the law, operating in the shadows, he continued to haunt his enemies.
Busted in Dubai
UPDATE - December 17, 2019:
Until the night of December 16, 2019. In cooperation with Dutch police, authorities in Dubai had been able to find the elusive crime boss. While Taghi was asleep at his villa in Dubai, where he had been living under a false identity, they raided his residence and placed him under arrest.
After Dutch authorities put up a $100,000 reward for his capture, Taghi had upped the ante as well. After allegedly ordering the murder of the brother of a witness against him, he had already shocked the Netherlands to its core. But in September of this year, he allegedly went even further.
Killing a lawyer
A hit team had been following attorney Derk Wiersum's every move for several weeks. Then, on the early morning of September 18, they pounced. The 44-year-old lawyer had just exited his home in Amsterdam when an assassin shot and killed him. The hitman then jumped in a getaway car driven by a second culprit.
Before his murder, Wiersum was working as the attorney of the witness against Taghi. The same witness whose brother had been assassinated. All fingers pointed to the fugitive crime boss. Especially when police began making arrests in the murder case and busted Taghi's 26-year-old cousin Anouar Taghi.
With the big boss himself in handcuffs, we will find out in a court of law whether or not he was the criminal mastermind behind a wave of vicious gangland killings that rocked Europe. More importantly, we will find out if justice will be served. Either way, with Taghi behind bars, a lot of people will sleep a lot better.
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