In a case that rocked the Netherlands, a Dutch court sentenced 11 men to one to nine years in prison for running a “underworld prison” with a torture chamber hidden in shipping containers.
The investigation focused around seven containers discovered by police in a southern Dutch woodland over two years ago, following up on information from a hack of the popular EncroChat encrypted phone system used by criminal groups across Europe.
During the raid, authorities discovered a dentist’s chair, as well as pruning shears, a saw, scalpels, and pliers in one of the containers. The remaining six containers were converted into prison cells.
“The court found that the suspects all contributed to a plan to kidnap, ransom, blackmail, torture and kill criminal opponents or their relatives,” the Amsterdam district court said in a statement on Wednesday. “The men formed a group based on a fight over money in the criminal world and planned to take the law into their own hands. The lack of respect for the personal freedom and integrity of others is shocking.”
The main suspect has been identified as Roger P, 50, also known as “Piet Costa” in the underworld, reportedly due to his frequent trips to Costa Rica.
Costa was sentenced to an extra 33 months in prison after being sentenced to 15 years for cocaine trafficking last month.
His 40-year-old right-hand man was sentenced to eight years in prison. A total of ten persons were sentenced, with one being acquitted.
After hacking the EncroChat encrypted system in 2020, Dutch police uncovered the prison complex, and courts ruled that evidence from the system may be used in court.
The offenders used EncroChat to send chat messages such as “we need enough belts and tie-wraps to tie them” and “we need cutting pliers for fingers and toes.”
One public prosecutor noted during the trial that the evidence should educate recreational cocaine users of the repercussions of their addictions, according to a Dutch prosecutor.
Koos Plooij told the court in February that the drug trade’s violence was a “repulsive, but unfortunately inescapable” effect of widespread illegal drug usage in the Netherlands and neighboring nations.
“The question is how many people are willing to admit that there is a link between their cocaine use – whether it is to party, deal with work stress, or suppress psychological problems – and the underworld, which is happy to meet demand but follows its own set of rules: corrupting, undermining, tough, sparing nothing and nobody,” Plooij said.