Netherlands’ ‘most wanted’ criminal sentenced to life imprisonment

Ridouan Taghi convicted of six gangland killings and four counts of attempted murder

Moroccan-born Ridouan Taghi, accused of running one of the largest drug trafficking operations in Europe, has been sentenced to life imprisonment by a court in Amsterdam at the culmination of a six-year-long trial involving 17 defendants and six interconnected gangland killings.

Taghi (46), who was the Netherlands’ most wanted criminal until he was arrested in Dubai in December 2019, was convicted of murder in all six cases, as well as of attempted murder in four others, planning a series of further attacks, and being a member of a criminal organisation.

The trial – with a case file in excess of 100,000 pages, longer than in the MH17 murder trial which sentenced three men to life in November 2022 – finally ended on Tuesday morning when judges delivered their verdict in a high-security courtroom known as “the bunker”.

The presiding judge described Taghi as the “undisputed leader” of the criminal organisation behind the spate of killings between 2015 and 2017. He said he had used “extreme violence” to frighten those he targeted, and that “the terror exerted by him” was unfailingly effective.


The judge added that it was highly likely that Taghi would carry out fresh murders were he released. “For that reason, as a penalty and to protect society, only a life sentence is appropriate.”

The court found that Taghi ordered the murders of Ronald Bakker in 2015, Samie Erraghib and Ranko Scekic in 2016, and Hakim Changachi in 2017.

However, there was “no evidence” that he ordered the murder of Abderrahim Belhadj in 2016 and “insufficient evidence” that he ordered the murder of Martin Kok in 2018.

Taghi’s long-time associates and co-defendants, named in court as Said R and Mario R, were also sentenced to life in jail. And although prosecutors also sought life for three more of Taghi’s closest lieutenants, Achraf B was jailed for 29 years, Mohamed R for 27 and Mao R for 15 years.

The 11 other defendants in the case were also convicted, receiving sentences of between 21 months and 23 years, all lower than demanded by prosecutors because, said the judge, the case “took too long”. It should have taken a maximum of four years.

Nabin B, a key defendant who agreed to give evidence on behalf of the prosecution, received a 10-year sentence. “You fulfilled your part of the agreement,” the judge told him, saying that in the circumstances a reduction by half was justified.

Three killings were committed during the six years of the trial but did not form part of the proceedings.

Days after Nabil B was announced as a prosecution witness, his brother, with no connections to the underworld, was shot dead. In September 2019 his lawyer, Derk Wiersum, was shot dead. In July 2021 journalist Peter R de Vries, who had become his adviser, was shot dead.

Taghi – who will be eligible for parole after 25 years – was not in court for the verdict. Eight of his co-defendants were present.

The court asked the media not to use the names of the judges for security reasons.

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Peter Cluskey

Peter Cluskey

Peter Cluskey is a journalist and broadcaster based in The Hague, where he covers Dutch news and politics plus the work of organisations such as the International Criminal Court