Mark Rutte, Dutch Prime Minister, Gets Extra Security – MajorUpdates

THE HAGUE — For years, Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands has cycled or walked to his city-center workplace, commuting to work like thousands and thousands of different Dutch people, unencumbered by the big safety particulars that encompass different world leaders.

So a report in a Dutch newspaper this week that the police had beefed up safety round Mr. Rutte after suspicious actions round him by people believed to be related to the nation’s infamous drug gangs has rattled many within the Netherlands.

The authorities have declined to formally verify the report within the newspaper, De Telegraaf, and it’s not clear whether or not Mr. Rutte has been advised to cease biking to work.

“We never say anything about safety and security,” Mr. Rutte advised reporters.

However, a police official and a senior Dutch authorities official, talking on situation of anonymity, confirmed that there had been fears for Mr. Rutte’s safety. They declined to present particulars, citing security causes, however the police official mentioned the safety issues had been associated to people concerned in organized crime, and that new measures to guard him had been carried out earlier this month.

No one doubts that organized crime has a foothold within the Netherlands. The nation is a transport hub within the drug trade for cocaine from South America to Europe. And in recent times, the authorities have blamed organized crime for 2 high-profile killings, most not too long ago the deadly capturing of a distinguished crime reporter, Peter R. de Vries.

But the query now’s whether or not the nation’s prime minister is a goal for gangsters, too. On that, opinion is split.

“The Dutch lost their naïveté against organized crime after the killing of Peter R. de Vries,” mentioned Michel Oz, a police officer and consultant of the Dutch Police Association. He mentioned the threats in opposition to the prime minister confirmed that organized crime teams “want to signal that they’re above the law.”

Others say that whereas drug-trafficking gangs have grown extra prepared to assault outsiders, the victims have been people they see as direct threats to their operations like crime reporters or attorneys — not politicians.

Damian Zaitch, a professor of criminology at Utrecht University who has performed in depth analysis on the drug trade within the Netherlands, mentioned the gangs had little to realize by concentrating on the prime minister.

“There is more violence from drug traffickers, who used to kill each other and now reach to outer circles — families, lawyers,” Mr. Zaitch mentioned. “But drug traffickers targeting politicians? For what?”

What is evident, nonetheless, is that the escalation of violence linked to the drug trade within the Netherlands has been a supply of rising concern for the authorities.

A collection of police operations since final yr has additionally forged a light-weight on the central place of the Netherlands in Europe’s drug trade, which Europol described in a report this month because the “staging point for cocaine trafficking on the continent.” The Netherlands can also be a middle for the unlawful manufacturing of amphetamines and crystal meth.

Mr. Rutte’s authorities mentioned this month that it could dedicate a further 430 million euros, or about $500 million, over the approaching yr to struggle organized crime.

Still, the Netherlands’ murder fee, at 0.6 per 100,000 people, stays far beneath the typical of most developed nations, and is in keeping with its European neighbors.

“The highly publicized murders make the situation spectacular,” mentioned Dina Siegel-Rozenblit, a professor of criminology at Utrecht University. “But we’re not in a narco-state, despite what some in the Netherlands like to say.”

Perhaps as a measure of that, Mr. Rutte has appeared in public this week with out a seen safety presence.

Peter Pronk, the supervisor of a fish store subsequent to the Parliament and authorities workplaces in The Hague, mentioned he had seen Mr. Rutte stroll to work final week and had not seen any additional safety.

“He had his briefcase and a cup of coffee, like so many of us would do — except he was asked to take a selfie at the gate,” Mr. Pronk mentioned.

Adding to the confusion, prosecutors in The Hague mentioned that that they had arrested a neighborhood councilor on Sunday over what they referred to as “suspicious behavior” regarding Mr. Rutte. Although they didn’t hyperlink it to the menace reported within the Dutch newspaper, the arrest sparked hypothesis that it could be associated.

The councilor, Arnoud van Doorn, was launched on Monday, according to his lawyer, Anis Boumanjal, who mentioned Mr. van Doorn had been noticed on Sunday in locations the place Mr. Rutte was an everyday, however that it had been a coincidence. Mr. van Doorn is not a suspect and the case in opposition to him was dropped, Mr. Boumanjal mentioned on Wednesday.

For years, competing drug gangs have carried out kidnappings and sporadic shootings in huge Dutch cities, however the latest violence has taken issues to a brand new stage, culminating in July with the capturing of Mr. de Vries as he was leaving a TV studio.

Mr. de Vries additionally served as an adviser to a key witness in an ongoing trial through which 17 people, together with Ridouan Taghi, who’s suspected of being the ringleader of a drug trafficking group, are accused of involvement in killings and tried murders between 2015 and 2017.

The killing of Mr. de Vries got here after Derk Wiersum, a lawyer for a similar witness, was killed in Amsterdam in 2019. The witness’s brother was shot useless in 2018.

“The threshold to commit a liquidation seems to be lower today than before,” prosecutors have mentioned, describing the assassinations as a part of a “well-oiled killing machine.”

In the operations that they launched final yr, the Dutch police have dismantled a number of cocaine manufacturing laboratories, arrested dozens of suspects and seized file quantities of cocaine.

Part of the explanation for the surge in drug trafficking via the Netherlands is that traffickers in Latin America largely depend on delivery containers to ship cocaine to Europe, which supplies a important function to Rotterdam, the continent’s largest seaport, in addition to to different huge container ports like Antwerp in Belgium and Hamburg in Germany.

“Cocaine travels with bananas and coffee, just like traditional goods from Latin American come through ports in northern Europe,” mentioned Letizia Paoli, a professor of criminology at Okay.U. Leuven, a college in Belgium.

Europol and the United Nations’ Office on Drugs and Crime warn that the booming cocaine market in Europe, which is extra profitable than that of the United States, had prompted an increase in assassinations, shootings, kidnappings and torture, amongst different crimes.

That has in flip left legislation enforcement officers within the Netherlands on edge, according to analysts.

“In Dutch law enforcement, everyone is wondering where will this end, and how this will evolve,” mentioned Jan Meeus, against the law reporter on the newspaper NRC Handelsblad who covers drug trafficking within the Netherlands.

Michael Schwirtz and Claire Moses contributed reporting from London.

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