The most wanted man in the Netherlands, described by the authorities as the king of a large and deadly criminal organization, is so elusive that he has never been convicted of a serious crime. In fact, the authorities weren't sure where he was for a long time.
On Monday, the police in Dubai came closer to a mansion in a wealthy area and arrested the man Ridouan Taghi on international charges of murder and drug trafficking.
The news of the arrest of 41-year-old Taghi met with praise and cheers in the Netherlands, where the allegations made against him are well known despite his efforts to stay in the background. The Ministry of Justice and Security says he is leading a major cocaine smuggling operation and has been involved in eleven murders.
"The political impact of the arrest is huge," said G.J. Alexander Knoops, Professor of International Politics at the University of Amsterdam. "It is probably one of the most important arrests for law enforcement agencies in the Netherlands in recent years."
Interest in Mr. Taghi increased in September when a lawyer, Derk Wiersum, was shot dead in Amsterdam – a murder the authorities suspect Mr. Taghi of ordering. Mr. Wiersum, a 44-year-old father of two, represented a prosecutor's witness in a murder case against Mr. Taghi – who is on trial in absentia – and some of his staff.
Later that month, prosecutors added further allegations to the trial, accusing Mr. Taghi, an employee of a store that sold spying equipment in 2015, and a crime blogger who attempted to murder the blogger in 2016 in one go Fall by placing a bomb under his car – and attempting to kill another man in Rotterdam.
Inez Weski, a lawyer for Mr. Taghi, retired from the trial in October. on the grounds that the procedure was unfair. Her office declined to comment on his arrest.
While Mr. Taghi's arrest is an undeniable milestone – Justice Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus called it "very good news" – the authorities say that it is an organization he is still operating. Dozens of Dutch officials received increased protection after Mr. Wiersum's murder in September, due to law enforcement officials saying that the gang that accused Mr. Taghi of running are a threat.
"This is an unprecedented situation for the Netherlands," said Yelle Tieleman, a crime reporter for the Dutch daily Algemeen Dagblad.
The Dutch authorities hope to take Mr. Taghi to the Netherlands within a few weeks to be prosecuted there. However, the country does not have an extradition agreement with the United Arab Emirates, which includes Dubai.
Morocco also has its eyes on Mr. Taghi, who is being sought there in 2017 for the murder of the son of a prominent judge in Marrakech. Morocco and the Emirates have an extradition agreement.
The Dutch police announced at a press conference that they still did not expect extradition to the Netherlands to be a problem – whether or not this is up to a judge in Dubai, said Knoops.
"Everyone here assumes it's a closed deal," said Mr. Knoops, "but it's more complex legally."
Taghi arrived in Dubai in 2016 using a Dutch passport that was issued under a different name. Dubai police chief Jamal Al Jallaf shared this with the Dutch broadcaster NOS and took measures to stay under the radar. "The curtains were always closed," said Al Jallaf. "Taghi was careful, very careful."
Mr. Taghi moved from Morocco to the Netherlands as a small child and grew up in the Utrecht region. There he was part of a youth gang called "Bad Boys" as a young man, according to the Dutch news agencies. He came into contact with the police about burglaries and fighting, but was unable to attract much attention.
From the 1980s onwards, a group of young Dutch gangsters gained some sort of celebrity status – in particular Willem Holleeder, one of the men who kidnapped Freddy Heineken, the brewery's managing director, and his driver in 1983. The victims were released and the kidnappers were caught and taken to prison.
Mr. Holleeder, who later committed other high profile crimes, became so famous that in 2012 he gave an interview for a talk show on national television. His sister Astrid Holleeder wrote a bestselling essay on how she could help the authorities kill her brother. This year he was sentenced to life imprisonment at the age of 61 for having been involved in several murders.
The high esteem of this group of criminals and the attention that law enforcement gave them allowed other younger people to get up in the background during that time, said Marian Husken, who writes books on Dutch crime.
When Mr. Holleeder and his contemporaries were arrested or killed, others filled the vacuum and law enforcement attention is now full of experts say.
"By putting these people on trial and sentencing you are not solving the underlying problem that the Netherlands is a transit country for cocaine," said Sven Brinkhoff, associate professor of criminal law at the Open University in Utrecht. "New people always rise."