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Image distributed by the police of the capture of the fugitive in January. CNP
'Most-wanted and dangerous' leader of feared criminal gang in the Netherlands disappears after being bailed by Costa del Sol court - despite high flight risk warning
Crime

'Most-wanted and dangerous' leader of feared criminal gang in the Netherlands disappears after being bailed by Costa del Sol court - despite high flight risk warning

The terms of bail for Karim Bouyakhrichan, who was arrested in Marbella in January, included the payment of 50,000 euros and an obligation to appear in court every 15 days - but the last occasion he did so was on 1 April

Melchor Sáiz-Pardo / Juan Cano

Madrid / Malaga

Tuesday, 23 April 2024, 16:31

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The arrest of Karim Bouyakhrichan in Marbella, probably the most dangerous and powerful kingpin of the 'Mocro Mafia', was celebrated by the authorities in Spain in early January. The Dutch authorities were also particularly happy, as the arrest of Bouyakhrichan - a Dutch citizen of Moroccan origin - had been on their radar for five years. He had become an obsession, especially after the Mocro Mafia - the network of North African criminals operating in the Netherlands - had threatened to kill the heir to the Dutch throne Catharina-Amalia, Princess Amalia of Orange.

However, Bouyakhrichan's whereabouts have been unknown since 1 April, days after he was released from prison on the Costa del Sol following a series of controversial decisions by magistrates and judicial outcomes.

The remarkable story that, according to all indications, could have ended with the escape of the Maghrebi kingpin from Spain began on 10 January. As expected, the magistrate's court in Marbella, which was on duty at the time of his arrest, ordered Bouyakhrichan to be remanded in custody. The accusations on Spanish soil of heading a money laundering scheme more than justified the provisional detention.

But that imprisonment lasted little more than a month. On 22 February, Malaga provincial court released the alleged leader of the Mocro Mafia on bail, with lax precautionary measures, including the withdrawal of his passport, the obligation to appear in court every 15 days and the payment of a bail of 50,000 euros.

After handing in his passport at the Marbella court the day after his release from prison, the mafia boss signed in to the courts on the outskirts of Malaga on 1 and 15 March and again on 1 April. But after the latter date there is no record of him doing so again, although judicial sources do not rule out the "remote" possibility he did sign in, and the notification is yet to be communicated.

'Yes, there is a flight risk'

Details of the surprise release on the appeal are still unknown, but what is certain is that the Malaga court of appeal took this decision despite strong opposition from the anti-drugs prosecutor's office. In the release order, seen by SUR, the judges even acknowledge "there is indeed a risk of absconding, given that the appellant is a foreign citizen, and there is no evidence that he has real estate in Spain, where he has been living in a house owned by his wife".

By that time, Bouyakhrichan was already the subject of an arrest warrant issued by the Dutch authorities, only hours after his arrest in Marbella.

Order was not activated

The warrant reached Spain's High Court (Audiencia Nacional) without a problem. The case went to court headed by Judge Ismael Moreno, who immediately processed the warrant, but it was not activated as the Malaga provincial court refused to do so, considering Bouyakhrichan had pending cases in Spain - a six million euro money laundering offence - before he could be handed over.

It was then that the Dutch authorities sent the Spanish High Court an extension of the surrender warrant. In it, they argued the extreme urgency of the transfer of this dangerous drug trafficker, leader of the Mocro Mafia, due to his long criminal record. Spain's High Court could have issued an arrest warrant at that time to secure his extradition, but it did not do so either, and it is not known why.

Extradition

Ismael Moreno simply decided to summon the offender - through his lawyer - to inform him of his extradition. However, without ordering his arrest, despite the fact that the Maghrebi had shown absolute refusal to end up in the Netherlands. And from then on, there has not been any trace of him. Bouyakhrichan did not show up for the date with the Spanish High Court, or for any of his regular court appearances. According to sources in the case, he could have fled Spain some weeks ago.

Outrage in the Netherlands

His escape has provoked outrage in the Netherlands. Its liaison judge met in person with magistrate Ismael Moreno to express his concern over the release and escape of what the ministry of the interior itself defined in January, after his capture, as the "most wanted and dangerous criminal in the Netherlands".

In the January police operation in which the Maghrebi was captured - and in which laundering operations in Spain worth six million euros and contacts with Latin American and European cartels were uncovered - a total of six people were arrested and 75,000 euros, jewellery worth 10,000 euros and two firearms were seized. In addition, 172 properties worth 50 million euros and nearly three million euros in bank accounts were blocked. Despite this economic potential, the bail for the fugitive was 50,000 euros, which he paid without any problems.

Murdered in Benahavís

The investigation revealed the existence of a complex company based in Morocco, the Dominican Republic, the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates and Spain. The criminal organisation used intermediaries, as well as the 'Hawalla' methodology and the use of front men to launder significant amounts of money with which they subsequently acquired movable and immovable property.

Bouyakhrichan, a Dutch citizen of Moroccan origin, is the brother of Samir Bouyakhrichan, who was murdered in Benahavís in 2014 and from whom he inherited the leadership of one of the most important groups of the Mocro Mafia.

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