Lawyer for suspected crime boss Ridouan Taghi arrested; “Violent” prison break scheme alleged
A family member of alleged crime boss Ridouan Taghi was arrested on Friday at the maximum security prison where Taghi is in pre-trial detention. Taghi is in restricted custody and is not allowed to communicate with anyone except his legal counsel. The man, who is also an attorney, allegedly helped Taghi get messages to the outside world to continue to run a criminal operation, the Public Prosecution Service (OM) said on Friday.
“The intercepted communication between the two shows that T. is probably organizing a violent prison break,” the OM wrote in a statement. The 38-year-old family member was arrested in the Extra Secure Institution (EBI) in Vught on suspicion of participation in a criminal organization aimed at money laundering, drug trafficking and the plotting to commit murder. Taghi is the main suspect in the Marengo Process, a trial involving a series of assassinations and attempted murders.
The 38-year-old man was arrested during a visit at the maximum-security prison, the Public Prosecution Service said. The family member abused his position as a lawyer, because in that capacity he was able to communicate with his client, Taghi, and exchange documents with complete confidentially, according to the OM. This was able to be arranged without oversight by the police or the Public Prosecution Service. The lawyer visited Taghi at the EBI dozens of times since March, and has called him numerous times.
Through contact with his cousin, Taghi was able to communicate unimpeded with the outside world, which allowed him to continue his criminal activities, the OM claimed. After a years-long manhunt, Taghi was arrested in Dubai in December 2019 and was extradited to the Netherlands. He has been stuck in the EBI ever since.
Additionally, Taghi appeared to be trying to obtain the personal addresses of prison system staff members, the Public Prosecution Service said. The Judicial Institutions Service (DJI) initially refused the lawyer access to the EBI. The head of the national Bar Association examined that decision and concluded that there was nothing improper with his request. The nephew was then permitted to visit Taghi. The Bar Association leader was informed of the arrest on Friday. The DJI declined to comment on the announcement.
A suspect may receive visits from an unlimited number of lawyers, in principle, according to the Public Prosecution Service. Apparently Taghi has had more lawyers at his disposal than just Inez Weski, who represents him in court during the Marengo Process hearings. "I was just confronted with this same news, and unfortunately cannot respond to it for the time being," Weski said on Friday when asked.
The national detectives division launched a criminal investigation in February into Taghi's abilty to communicate with the outside world. Intercepted encrypted communications raised suspicions that he was continuing his criminal activities from within the EBI. These communications were obtained in part from the police phishing operation targeting users of the Sky ECC messaging service.
In the summer, the new suspect came into the picture as a messenger for Taghi. With the permission of an examining magistrate, detectives deployed special investigative resources to check whether the communication between Taghi and his family member was punishable. The lawyer's right to attorney-client privilege and confidential information was kept under consideration, the OM said.
The Utrecht office of the 38-year-old was searched on Friday, as was his home in Maarssen. Notebooks, notes and digital data devices were seized. Taghi's prison cell in the EBI was also searched. The new suspect will be brought before the examining magistrate on Monday for his first remand hearing.
As a result of the arrest, the Cabinet is considering stricter rules for lawyers of serious criminals. Sander Dekker, the caretaker minister of legal protection, said that he "wants to examine this critically". It concerns a "specific group of serious criminals" who may have to deal with deviating rules "when it comes to the right to an attorney".
If those rights "are abused, as in this specific case", you have to look at “whatever must be done,” said Dekker. The minister doubts whether it is still right that rules which apply to other criminal suspects should be extended to the prisoners being kept in maximum security institutions, like the one in Vught.
Reporting by ANP and NL Times.