The Hague- For years, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has traveled by bicycle or moved to the city center to commute to work like millions of other Dutch people, without the huge security details that surround other world leaders.
A report in a Dutch newspaper this week said that police had stepped up security around Rutte following suspicious activity involving people linked to the country’s notorious drug gangs, much to the dismay of the Netherlands. .
Officials refused to officially confirm the report in the newspaper De Telegraaf and it was unclear whether Rutte had been asked to stop cycling at work.
“We never said anything about safety,” Ruth told reporters.
However, a police officer and a senior Dutch government official confirmed, on condition of anonymity, that there were concerns about Rutte’s safety. He declined to provide details, citing security concerns, but police officers said security concerns relate to those involved in organized crime and new steps were taken to protect them earlier this month.
There is no doubt that organized crime has occurred in the Netherlands. The country is the center of the cocaine trade from South America to Europe. And in recent years, authorities have blamed organized crime for two high-profile murders, most notably the fatal shooting of a prominent crime reporter, Peter R. de Vries.
But now the question arises whether the country’s prime minister has also been targeted by gangsters. Opinions on this are divided.
“The Netherlands lost their innocence to organized crime after the murder of Peter R. de Vries,” said Michelle Oz, police officer and representative of the Dutch Police Association. He said threats against the prime minister showed organized criminal groups “want to signal that they are above the law”.
Others say drug gangs are increasingly targeting outsiders, but the victims are people they see as a direct threat to their operations, such as journalists or lawyers. Not a politician.
Damien Zack, a professor of criminology at the University of Utrecht who is conducting extensive research on drug trafficking in the Netherlands, said the groups were of little help in targeting the prime minister.
“More violence is coming from drug dealers killing each other and now reaching outsiders – families, lawyers,” Zack said. “But drug traffickers target politicians?” Why? ”
However, it is clear that the escalation of drug-related violence in the Netherlands is increasingly worrying the authorities.
A series of police raids last year also highlighted the central position of the Netherlands in the European drug trade, which Europol described in a report this month as “the starting point of the cocaine trade on the continent”. The Netherlands is also a center for the illegal production of amphetamine and methamphetamine.
Rutte’s government announced this month that it would allocate an additional €430 million, or about $500 million, to fighting organized crime over the next year.
However, the homicide rate in the Netherlands of 0.6 per 100,000 inhabitants is well below the average in most industrialized countries and in line with its European neighbours.
“The high-profile murders make the situation spectacular,” said Dina Siegel-Rosenblitt, professor of criminology at the University of Utrecht. “But we weren’t drunk, despite what some people in the Netherlands like to say.”
Perhaps as a way to do this, Rutte appeared in public this week without a safety show.
Peter Pronk, head of a fish shop near Parliament and government agencies in The Hague, said he saw Ruth go to work last week and was not given extra security.
“He had a briefcase and a cup of coffee, like most of us do – except he was asked to take a selfie at the gate,” Pronk said.
Confused further, prosecutors in The Hague said they arrested the local council on Sunday for “suspicious behavior” towards Rutte. Although he did not link it to the threats reported in Dutch newspapers, the arrest sparked speculation that it might be related.
Councilman Arnaud van Doorn was released on Monday, according to his lawyer Anees Bomanjal, who said van Doorn was seen Sunday in places where Rutte used to be, but that it was a coincidence. Van Dorn is no longer a suspect and the case against him has been dropped, Bomanjal said on Wednesday.
For years rival drug gangs have carried out sporadic kidnappings and shootings in major Dutch cities, but recent violence has taken things to a new level, culminating in the shooting of Juli de Vries after he left the television studio. they
Mr de Vries also suggested a prime witness in the ongoing case in which 17 people, including Riduan Tagi, the alleged leader of a drug trafficking organization, were charged with murder and homicide between 2015 and the incident. and 2017
De Vries was killed after Derk Wirsum, a lawyer for the same witness, was murdered in Amsterdam in 2019. The witness’ brother was shot dead in 2018.
“The liquidation threshold appears to be lower today than ever before,” prosecutors said, describing the killings as part of a “well-oiled killing machine.”
In an operation launched last year, Dutch police destroyed several cocaine laboratories, arrested dozens of suspects and seized large quantities of cocaine.
One reason for the increase in drug trafficking through the Netherlands is that smugglers in Latin America rely primarily on shipping containers to ship cocaine to Europe, making Rotterdam the continent’s largest port and other large container. Ports such as Antwerp in Belgium and Hamburg in Germany.
“Cocaine travels with bananas and coffee, like traditional Latin American goods that come through ports in Northern Europe,” said Leticia Paoli, professor of criminology at KU Leuven, a Belgian university.
Europol and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime warn that the booming European cocaine market, which is more lucrative than the United States, has led to an increase in killings, shootings, kidnappings and torture, among others. have suggested.
Analysts say this has marginalized Dutch law enforcement agencies.
“Everyone in Dutch law enforcement is wondering where it will end up and how it will go,” said Jan Mees, crime reporter for NRC Handelsblad, which deals with drug trafficking in the Netherlands.