The Dutch narco-state: who is involved and in which way?

Recently, incidents linked to organised (drug) crime have shaken up the Netherlands. From the infamous Marengo trial, which was accompanied by several assassination attempts, to the discovery of the torture containers and the Caloh Wagoh motorcycle club trial. The growing number of violent crimes has an impact on Dutch society. According to Lieselot Bisschop, Professor of Public and Private Interests at Erasmus School of Law, understanding who and how someone is involved in crime, and a better focus are necessary to tackle this crime effectively.

In recent years, the Netherlands has been shaken up by various violent incidents and major criminal trials involving players from the criminal world. Organised and subversive crime is being tackled from many sides, but there is still a long way to go. Lieselot Bisschop tells UnHerd that the path starts with a better understanding of the source of crime: who is involved and in which way?

Trading country

Bisschop is part of a team of researchers that has been focusing on drug trafficking within the port of Rotterdam and its approach since 2018. Although a record amount of cocaine and heroin was found last year (72,808 and 1,500 kilos, respectively), it is difficult to conclude whether this means that the fight against drug trafficking in the port is going well. It is impossible to say with certainty whether this increase also means that the total amount of drugs transported via the port has increased. “The quantity aspect is always very challenging. It is a dark number, guesstimates,” according to Bisschop.

Experts agree that the Dutch infrastructure is crucial for both legal and illegal trade. Criminals skilfully use the efficient ports, good roads, and strong financial and digital infrastructure of the country. Many illegal practices get mixed with the legal activities taking place here, making it easier for criminals to stay under the radar.

Corruption as the second protagonist

In addition to the opportunities offered by the Dutch infrastructure, corruption also plays a significant role. Bisschop endorses this. The research shows that public or private corruption always plays a role in drug smuggling in the port of Rotterdam. “Within Europe, it is definitely the gateway for any kind of trade and probably for cocaine. Over the years, the port has become more physically and digitally secure. We think this has contributed to more pressure on the people in the port. Basically, you need corruption to pull it off — both public and private, not just police and customs but also planners in container terminals. You need someone on the inside with knowledge about the port and supervision,” according to Bisschop.

Promising developments

Despite the challenges that the Netherlands faces in combating drug crime, promising developments are already taking place. In Rotterdam, for example, an Information Sharing Center has been set up, along with a so-called training container where port employees receive training in fighting corruption. Since 1 January 2022, a long-awaited law amendment has come into effect that imposes more severe penalties for unauthorised presence at (air)ports. Furthermore, hundreds of millions of euros are being invested on a national level to fight crime that undermines public order, including organised (drug) crime.

More information

Read the full article on UnHerd here.

The strengthening of the approach to subversive crime is the subject of the ongoing action-oriented evaluation study commissioned by the WODC (2019-2022) of Maastricht University (Hans Nelen & Roland Moerland) and Erasmus School of Law (Karin van Wingerde & Lieselot Bisschop). Read the interim report of the study (in Dutch) here (Nelen et al. 2021).


Related content

Public-private partnerships and the fight against drug crime in the port of Rotterdam

Lieselot Bisschop spoke about the public-private partnership in the Port of Rotterdam in the talkshow Vers Beton Live.

Looks can be deceiving: successful drug busts in the port of Rotterdam are only the tip of the iceberg

Robby Roks, Associate Professor of Criminology at Erasmus School of Law, clarifies the biggest problems in the port of Rotterdam.

How the country of windmills and tulips is turning into a bloody narco-state

Criminologist Robby Roks explains how, according to some, the country of windmills and tulips turns into a narco-state.

Compare @count study programme

  • @title

    • Duration: @duration
Compare study programmes