chilling | 

Jailed Dutch drug dealer faces another 12 years following discovery of torture chambers

Prosecutors have asked for a 12-year sentence for Costa in connection with the discovery of seven shipping containers converted into cells and torture chambers

The Dutch torture chambers were discovered in 2020

Neil Fetherstonhaugh

A notorious Dutch drug trafficker who has been jailed for 15 years for the importation of nearly four tons of cocaine is facing another 12 years following the discovery of a chilling gangland torture chamber in the Netherlands.

Piet Costa was arrested in mid-2020 following a four-year undercover investigation into a shipment of more than 3,700kg of cocaine that was intercepted in Rotterdam in 2016.

Having led what the judges said was “a life of luxury” by “staying under the radar”, he was identified when a Franco-Dutch police operation hacked into the messaging service, EncroChat that was primarily used by organised criminals but is now defunct.

In his EncroChat messages, Costa talked freely about smuggling large quantities of drugs – and even attached images of multiple blocks of cocaine.

During the court case his lawyers challenged the use of the EncroChat data in evidence, claiming it was obtained illegally. The judges, however, ruled that it was acceptable.

Dutch police chief Janine van den Berg described the results of the hack at the time as “like sitting at a table where the criminals are chatting among themselves”.

In a written verdict, judges in the case said “P” – better known by his own alias of “Piet Costa” - had built his business through contacts with a Colombian cartel, and since then “had a day job” managing his organisation, recruiting co-investors, and seeking out corrupt contacts in private companies and public institutions.

He imported his drugs from Colombia through Rotterdam and Antwerp, a route identified by Europol last year as having overtaken the previously preferred southern route through Spain.

Alongside Costa, who was convicted of importing cocaine, money laundering, and participation in a criminal organisation, six others were sentenced to between three and eight years in prison. Two men were acquitted.

In a separate case, prosecutors have asked for a 12-year sentence for Costa in connection with the discovery of seven shipping containers converted into cells and torture chambers, discovered between Rotterdam and Antwerp near the Belgian border in 2020.

That discovery of the “underworld prison”, which drew worldwide attention, was also linked to the EncroChat hack.

The Public Prosecution Service brought new reports to the court in Amsterdam in December 2020 in the case of the Brabant torture containers that were discovered in a police operation earlier that year.

According to prosecutors, the new evidence clearly shows that the purpose of the suspects was to kidnap and torture rivals.

Ten suspects in total were accused of “preparing for deprivation of liberty and extortion”.

Piet Costa is said to have had a leading role in setting up and furnishing the torture containers.

In July, cops found the containers located in Wouwse Plantage, south of Rotterdam, after French police cracked encrypted phones used by criminals.

Dutch police said the containers were found before they were used, and potential victims were in hiding.

Inside the containers was a dentist chair with straps and handcuffs.

Police also found a building in Rotterdam, which they believe was another criminal base.

The suspects were arrested in June following a Franco-Dutch operation to infiltrate the EncroChat encrypted phone system.

After locating the containers in April in Wouwse Plantage, near the Belgian border, police put the area under observation and found that multiple men were working on them almost every day. When the containers were almost finished, investigators decided to intervene.

Officers found handcuffs attached to the floors and ceilings of the structures, which had also been soundproofed.

In one container, they also discovered police clothing and bulletproof vests. In another, they located pruning shears, scalpels and balaclavas.

In further evidence heard by the court, it emerged that chilling messages including references to “nippers for fingers and toes”, a “set for nails” and a “grout tub for waterboarding” were exchanged between the gangsters.

According to the Public Prosecution Service, ‘Piet Costa’ would have written via EncroChat under the alias Luxury Balloon to Ibrahim Azaim, who was liquidated in May.

"Place for about ten men. Clean shed, everything comes isolated, they are allowed to scream.”

After the murder of his companion Azaim, ‘Piet Costa’ is said to have written in a chat message: “I'm not normally from this department, but now there are a few… I hope that I can torture them.”

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