Dubai: The ringleader of the ‘Angels of Death’ gang was shocked when police raided his Dubai villa and arrested him this week, an official told Gulf News on Tuesday.
The announcement of the arrest of Ridouan Taghi — described as “the Netherland’s most dangerous man” — was made on Monday, with Dutch police praising their Dubai counterparts for their cooperation.
Taghi, 41, a notorious Moroccan-born Dutch drug trafficker who is wanted in connection with a string of assassinations in Holland, had entered Dubai using a different identity, under a passport and visa issued before the time of an Interpol arrest warrant.
“Police departments from the Netherlands and other European countries were chasing Taghi for ten years,” said Brigadier Jamal Al Jallaf, Director of the Criminal Investigation Department of Dubai Police.
“He didn’t expect to be arrested in Dubai,” Al Jallaf added. “When a special unit of Dubai Police arrested him inside the villa, he said that he didn’t expect to be caught after all these years of hiding away.
“He even told us after we raided the villa, that Dubai Police must be the best because he had been on the run for many years.”
Dubai Police said it took them just five days to arrest Taghi, after the arrest warrant was issued by Interpol.
“We analysed a huge amount of data and information beside surveillance cameras in the city to identify Taghi’s location. He has a smart mind as he didn’t make any purchases or transactions under his name since he arrived in Dubai. He left no trace, which was a big challenge for us, but we arrested him in the end,” said Al Jallaf.
“Taghi will be referred to Dubai Public Prosecution to finish the extradition procedure through the Interpol,” he added.
"Killings like cups of coffee"
Dutch police were offering a reward of €100,000 (Dh402,294) for information relating to Taghi’s whereabouts, the highest in their history, but he had kept a low profile and remained largely unheard of until the mid-2000s when he started trafficking cocaine into Europe through Morocco and South America.
‘He ordered killings as if they were cups of coffee’
Investigators claim he is wanted in connection with at least 20 murders, ordered by him and his associate Said Razzouki, who remains on the run.
Police in Holland who monitored chats between the two suspects said these hits were ordered as casually as if they were ‘cups of coffee’.
The most audacious of their hits was the murder of prosecution lawyer Derk Wiersum, 44, in Amsterdam in September, who was gunned down in front of his wife. He was the lawyer of Nabil B, a former member of Taghi’s gang, who had turned informer and was expected to testify against Taghi and Razzouki.
The murder of Wiersum came a year after Nabil’s brother, who had nothing to do with the gang, was also assassinated.
Wiersum’s broad daylight murder sparked outrage in the country and forced police to step up their investigation, assigning nearly 100 digital and financial expert officers onto the case.
Before long Taghi was placed on Europe’s ‘most wanted’ list.
Born in the small Dutch city of Vianen, Taghi forayed into the world of crime in the ‘90s and soon emerged as one biggest narcotics traffickers in Europe. It is believed that he built his drug empire by taking over drug trafficking routes between Morocco and Europe.
Despite controlling about a third of all cocaine trafficked in Europe, Taghi managed to fly under the radar for years as he set up smuggling and distribution networks through France, Belgium and Germany without leaving so much as a fingerprint.
His name first cropped up in a police report in 2015 when Dutch authorities cracked down on a death squad which committed murders ordered by mob bosses.
However, Taghi was not charged because of lack of evidence. The first real proof of his lust for violence came the following year when authorities decoded several text messages he exchanged with his criminal enterprise.
“Serves that [expletive] right. Giving up information on our group,” Taghi messaged one of his underlings after the 2016 killing of a man.
In 2013, he allegedly had his brother-in-law killed in Spain in following a disagreement over a drug shipment.
“He who talks, goes. And everyone around him goes to sleep,” an informant would later tell investigators. That said, all hits didn’t go as planned.
On two occasions in 2017, his death squad killed the wrong man. One of them turned out to be the son of a judge.
In 2018, the Public Prosecution Service put Taghi and his right-hand man Said Razzouki on an international investigations list.
They said Taghi ordered murders as one would order coffee. But Taghi remained elusive, changing his looks every few months and using false passports and visas.
This week he finally ran out of luck when Dubai Police raided a villa and caught him, ending years of manhunt.