Former gang member is chief state witness against powerful merger dubbed 'Mocro Mafia'
But Dutch Moroccan Ridouan Taghi is now facing the biggest showdown of his life as authorities in the Netherlands gear up for the high profile 'Marengo' trial expected to get to the heart of the powerful merger of Europe's top mobs.
Taghi is in custody in the Netherlands after a global hunt that saw him tracked to Dubai and which broke every norm that has gone before. Along with 16 of his gang members he will face charges relating to seven murders, including that of a lawyer.
Known as the 'Mocro Mafia', the suspects are believed to be behind plots to kill judiciary, police and journalists in a full attack on the pillars of the state of the Netherlands.
Evidence is expected to be heard about Taghi's rise to power in a murky Dutch Moroccan underworld as the state's top witness, known only as Nabil B, takes the stand.
Hundreds of pages of documents which the court has heard will not be opened are understood to relate to Taghi's arrest in Dubai where he was living undercover after becoming the most wanted man in the Netherlands.
And while a magistrate has agreed to keep the files firmly locked down, they are understood to contain sensitive information regarding his business partners too.
Taghi was dramatically arrested in Dubai in December 2019 after years in hiding.
Recently it was heard that during the hunt for the fugitive, undercover officers tracked two Dutch lawyers, believing they were due to meet Taghi but instead watched as Irish mob boss Daniel Kinahan appeared in the lobby of a hotel.
Sources say that the lawyers had been told they were going to Dubai to meet 'the boss of bosses', a term relating to the leaders of mafia organisations, who investigators presumed was Taghi.
The 'Marengo' trial was due to get underway in the past few weeks but has been postponed due to Covid-19 and this week justice correspondent, Saskia Belleman, who works with De Telegraaf in Amsterdam, is chatting on the Crime World podcast about the events leading up to it.
She has followed the hearings at the top security courtroom known as 'De Bunker' where it will take place.
Once underway, the trial will hear evidence of how in the summer of 2015 a man known as Ebrahim B was alerted by police that he was being tracked and about to be killed.
He abandoned his car in Brussels and hopped on a train to Amsterdam to arrive in the Driebergen police station. The events followed the huge seizure of guns suspected to be owned by a Dutch Morrocan mob known as the 'Bad Boys'.
Amazingly, Ridouan Taghi was unknown until 2015 and rose to the very top of European gangland in the shadows.
It was only when officers seized a stash of more than 80 weapons, including semi automatic machine guns, in the Netherlands six years ago and a former member of his gang came forward with information, that his carefully formed house of cards began to topple.
At that time he was firmly embedded with the Kinahan mafia on the Costa del Sol and two years later one of his key lieutenants, Naoufal Fassih, was discovered in a mob safe house in Dublin.
Later, as his Chilean business partner, Richard Eduardo Riquelme Vega, known as 'El Rico', plotted to break Fassih out of Portlaoise Prison, the Garda Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau moved in to foil the plot.
In a rags-to-riches story that reads like a gangster movie script, Taghi came from nothing but became one of the world's richest and most dangerous drug lords. Incredibly, it had only taken Taghi ten years to go from street thug to drugs overlord and one of the most powerful men on the cocaine scene in Europe.
The 44-year-old had been born in Morocco but moved to Vianen in the Netherlands.
One of ten children, he started as a street dealer as a teenager and robbed to make up his funds. By his early 20s he moved into transport and began to work as a fixer in his native Morocco, linking the dealers of Europe to the farmers and boatmen who transport cannabis into Europe.
But he saw his opportunities and soon began to move the shipments himself in speedboats across the seas. At first, he carried thousand of tons of other people's cannabis from Tangier to Algeciras, the southern Spanish port near Gibraltar. He bought his own fleet of engines and employed his own gang, known as 'the Bad Boys', on the streets of Niuwegein, Vianen and Utrecht.
While in Morocco he started to buy direct from the hash farmers.
By 2005, Taghi was well on the way to becoming a boss himself and with an astute business mind, despite garnering his education on the streets, he quickly set up his own network of storage facilities, transport and eventually buyers to get his product from Morocco to the streets of the Netherlands.
But like all new generations of drug lords that emerged in Europe during the 2000s from the shadows of the big hash dealers that had gone before them, Taghi turned to cocaine which could be transported in much the same cargos.
At the same time, the cocaine lords of South and Central America turned their attention to Europe as a new and growing market, and Taghi was ready with his full business network in place. T
Taghi quickly went from a bit hitter in the Netherlands to a big hitter in Europe.
But money brings with it trouble in the volatile underworld, and Taghi's gang began to implode. A string of murders began in 2012 when two gangs went to war and in 2014 Gwenette Martha, the boss on one side, was killed.
Months later Samir 'Scarface' Bouyakhhrichan was shot dead on the Costa with Naoufal Fassih at his side. The murder of 'Scarface' paved the way for Taghi to take control in the top spot.
More murders followed on the streets of Amsterdam until cops eventually followed a group of car thieves and set up surveillance on them at a Dutch building.
There, 61 guns, 26 automatic weapons and nine hand grenades were seized, leading straight to the 'Bad Boys' network and its leader Taghi.
As the Kinahan mob embarked on their own war in Dublin, police forces across Europe banded together to tackle the Super Cartel.
They swapped intelligence and when there was a breakthrough in the discovery of a server from an encrypted phone network in Canada they found evidence of Taghi and others ordering cocaine shipments and murder, just as they would a takeaway.
By 2018 the tide had begun to turn on Taghi when one of his gang members, Nabil B, signed up as a state witness in the Netherlands. On the run in Dubai he was eventually tracked down there in December 2019 when he was arrested and extradited back to stand trial.