Main suspect in Hedel extortion case gets 10-year sentence, is considering appeal
Yassine A., 21, from Hilversum will most likely appeal against the court's verdict in the extortion case concerning fruit company De Groot in Hedel, Gelderland. A. was sentenced to 10 years on Thursday, but his lawyer criticized the undercover method with which the police collected evidence.
According to the court in Arnhem, A. provoked five of the seven attacks by offering young perpetrators money and firework bombs and by providing addresses of employees and relatives of De Groot. A. is the half-brother of the main suspect Ali G., 37, who will be on trial in June. According to the Public Prosecution Service (OM), G. was under supervision and used A. as an assistant and "conduit."
Employees of the fruit company had been under threat since 2019. The reason was probably the discovery of a batch of cocaine in one of the fruit transports, which was reported to the police. The company then received threatening text messages demanding 2.5 million euros worth of bitcoins.
The text messages were accompanied by a series of firework bomb attacks on homes in 2020 in Tiel, Rosmalen, Breda, Vlijmen, Kerkdriel and Hedel. The police managed to thwart two attacks in Hilversum in December 2020.
The OM relies in such cases on statements by a co-defendant, who was sentenced to four years in prison for his part as a driver in the attacks in Tiel, Rosmalen, Breda and Vlijmen. He was interrogated in a van during an undercover operation by undercover agents posing as criminals. Against the rules, his confessions and statements about others during that 45-minute ride were not included.
A.'s lawyers therefore call this unreliable evidence, but the court did not agree. "There is no indication that unauthorized pressure was exerted on the man," the court ruled, based on the stories of the undercover officers.
Nevertheless, the undercover method is grounds for an appeal, said lawyer Anis Boumanjal in a reaction to the verdict. "What sticks and sticks is the unrecorded statement of the co-defendant. If you want to use a statement in this way, it does not do justice to a good legal system. And that means that we will probably submit the case to a higher court."
Boumanjal mentioned "the disproportionate punishment" imposed on his client as a second reason. "He was acquitted for the most serious offenses in Hedel and Kerkdriel," he said. "The sentence was therefore lower than demanded. But the sentence is not related to the offenses for which he was convicted. Without wanting to detract from the seriousness of the facts, 10 years is quite high."
The six perpetrators of the attacks were also sentenced to partly conditional prison terms of three to nine years. The lowest sentence was 18 months, six of which were suspended. Two of the perpetrators attended the verdict.
Reporting by ANP