Spanish police catch Dutch “most wanted” suspect in drug syndicate, money laundering case

Police in Spain escorting Karim B. after his arrest on 25 January 2024

Police in Spain apprehended a man they called “the most wanted and dangerous criminal in the Netherlands. He was identified as Karim B., an alleged crime leader from Amsterdam seen as a top rival to Ridouan Taghi, who is currently on trial in the Netherlands.

Spain’s National Police announced the arrest of six individuals in total on Thursday as part of an investigation dating back to June 2018. The six people were taken into custody in Malaga and Melilla on initial accusations of laundering over six million euros in revenue earned from drug trafficking, and suspicion of participating in a crime syndicate.

Authorities said they froze assets including three million euros in different bank accounts, and 172 properties valued at a combined total of 50 million euros. Investigators also seized 75 thousand euros in cash, 10 thousand euros in jewellery, and two firearms.

Police launched the investigation more than five years ago to combat the widespread trafficking of cocaine. In Spain, this mainly focused on Malaga, Melilla, and Marbella, as well as Barcelona. “During the investigation, it was possible to verify the existence of a complex company based in Morocco, the Dominican Republic, the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates and Spain,” police in Spain said.

The money laundering allegation is largely tied to a Hawala-style system where money and assets change hands in a complicated set of transactions with various brokers and fronts. Police said this was used “to launder significant amounts of money with which they subsequently acquired movable and immovable property.”

The stated target of the investigation was the Dutch person who was captured by police. He was described as “one of the leaders of the so-called Mocro Maffia, considered by the Netherlands as its most wanted and dangerous criminal. This man was alleged to be “a long time drug trafficker in the Costa del Sol” who brought together cocaine traffickers for a significant fee.

The prime suspect is Karim B., whose brother, Samir, was assassinated in Marbella a decade ago. Karim is believed to have taken over his brother’s role as the head of a large cocaine trafficking organization. Gunmen shot Samir “Scarface” B. as he walked out of the Monte Halcones shopping center in Benahavis. He suffered multiple gunshot wounds to his head and his back, and died at the scene. At the time, he was considered to be running a large cocaine operation based in the west side of Amsterdam while he remained in Spain.

Both RTL Nieuws and the Telegraaf reported that Karim B. was an assassination target named in encrypted chat messages sent by associates of Ridouan Taghi, including Richard R., also known as Rico the Chilean, and also Italian drug lord Raffaele Imperiale.

Investigators in the Netherlands intercepted the messages and prosecutors have been using them in multiple trials. Imperiale recently began cooperating with authorities in Italy. According to the Telegraaf, Imperiale at one point shared information used in the chat communications about where Karim B. often worked out and a cafe he frequented.

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