Amsterdam, June 2021. Along the canal in the city center, a crowd of anonymous people gathers. Some are crying. They have come from all over the Netherlands to pay tribute to one of the most well-known figures in the country, Peter de Vries. A star in Dutch television journalism, he was shot on the street just a few days earlier. Peter de Vries was 64 years old. He was an investigative journalist specializing in criminal cases. For over 30 years, he captivated Dutch viewers with his determined investigations.

Photo: Krzysztof Kubicki

Society in decline

His assassination took place in the heart of Amsterdam at 7 p.m. Peter de Vries, casually dressed, left the studio where he recorded his programs. He was heading home, unaware that assassins were trailing him. Peter was shot five times at close range. The shockwaves of his murder reverberated widely in Dutch society.

“He was such an important figure for the Netherlands and so well-liked. He became a victim of what he fought against so vigorously. That’s why I felt obligated to come,” expressed one mourner.

Another added, “It’s shocking. Horrible that something like this can happen. You leave work, and then gunshots.”

Peter de Vries’s murder is not an isolated incident. It is the latest episode in a series of hits ordered by drug traffickers. This phenomenon now threatens the entire Europe. It’s hard to believe, but the Netherlands, with its tulip fields and windmills, has become a new playground for drug cartels. In just ten years, the Netherlands and Belgium have become major entry points for cocaine into Europe.

The two largest ports on the continent, Rotterdam and Antwerp, are located here. Thousands of ships from around the world pass through these ports every week. It is estimated that 50% to 80% of the cocaine consumed in Europe is hidden in containers. For customs officials, it’s a real headache. It’s impossible to inspect every shipment.

Paul Meyer was involved in this smuggling in the 2000s. He agreed to reveal some of his tricks. “It’s a ship coming from South America. You know that this ship will arrive here. Either your people are already waiting here, or you have someone who will unload it. It’s simple, really not complicated!”

Security has become a serious problem in the ports. Port workers are constantly harassed by traffickers trying to recruit them. “They try to find out your name. And when you don’t cooperate with them, they threaten you. And they go after you or your family. It’s a dangerous business,” explained one employee.

Rise of the Mocro Mafia

This smuggling has led to the emergence of a new mafia led by Dutch of Moroccan origin – the Mocro Mafia. These gangs are heavily armed and ultra-aggressive, not hesitating to use torture. A member of the gang stated, “If someone has to die, they’ll die. It doesn’t matter if they’re with a woman or a child, they have to die.”

These drug traffickers feel untouchable. They have attacked journalists and even murdered a lawyer. Even the Prime Minister of the Netherlands is not immune to their threats. Those who have found themselves on their list are in serious danger.

This drug trade generates tens of billions of euros annually. Today, authorities are deeply concerned. Are Belgium and the Netherlands becoming the first narcotic states in the heart of Europe?

Bunker and Trial

In March 2022, on the outskirts of Amsterdam, a groundbreaking trial begins. The police conducted a significant security operation around what appeared to be an ordinary building but was, in fact, ultra-secure. It’s called the “bunker,” specially designed for trials related to organized crime. With surveillance cameras, reinforced windows, and closed blinds, this is where one of the most powerful bosses of the Mocro Mafia will stand trial.

Ridouan Taghi, 44 years old, is considered to control 30% of the cocaine trade in Europe and has an estimated fortune of nearly 100 million euros. Alongside him, 16 of his associates are being prosecuted for six murders and about twenty attempted murders. This high-tension trial prohibits the filming or drawing of the faces of judges. Journalists follow the proceedings in a separate room.

Wouter Laumans, a specialist in criminal affairs, considers this trial unprecedented in the Netherlands. “Prosecutors are anonymous. They ask us not to publish their names. The same goes for judges. This says a lot about the fear generated by this trial.”

In the wall of the courtroom, protected by bulletproof glass, is the key witness of the trial. He is a former right-hand man of Ridouan Taghi. However, since cooperating with the police, the number of deaths among his close ones has increased.

From prison, Ridouan Taghi continues to spread terror. The first lawyer for the witness was murdered in front of his house, in the presence of his wife. Today, a new lawyer has replaced him. He lives under constant protection, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Peter Schouten, 65 years old, has been under protection for over a year. “I feel like I’m being transported like a package. I’m proud that I can do my job because I won’t let myself be intimidated. It’s important for a suspect to have a lawyer. Someone has to do it. For me, it’s important that in a democracy, the law is applied.”

Military personnel in civilian clothes are always nearby. The lawyer was a close friend of journalist Peter de Vries. Both learned from the intelligence services that they were on Ridouan Taghi’s death list. “We discussed the threats and risks together. It was clear that one of us could be killed. Of course, we didn’t know who would be first. I told Peter that he was the target because he was known. His murder had a greater impact than mine.” The two friends discovered how powerful and dangerous Ridouan Taghi’s organization is while working on this trial. “My client testified on over 1500 pages, describing their modus operandi, how they committed murders, and how they chose their victims. It shows how organized they are in their business. And that makes it difficult for the Netherlands to combat them. Authorities are rather disorganized, while criminals are organized.”

Krzysztof Kubicki, an enthusiast in documenting everyday life through photojournalism and narrating authentic stories. My journey with imagery began with a fascination for capturing moments that tell the tale of society and its character.

As an independent reporter, I specialize in both photojournalism and event photography. My services encompass the complete spectrum of documenting events, from subtle moments of daily life to the exhilarating highlights of events. For me, this is not just a job but also a passion for capturing reality in a unique way.

What sets my work apart? I focus on portraits of people that tell simple yet profound stories about society. My photos not only depict images but also convey emotions and the authenticity of moments. As a result, my reportages become an unforgettable journey through the diversity of human experiences.

I am active on social media, where I share snippets of my work, inspirations, and provide behind-the-scenes glimpses into the creative process. My photos have been featured in various publications, attesting to their recognition in the industry. For me, this is not only a testament to professionalism but also proof that every shot I create has the potential to reach a wide audience.

I invite you to explore the world through my lenses, where everyday life becomes an extraordinary journey, and each photo is a fragment of stories about people and their experiences.