Gangster’s Daughter Kidnapped in Amsterdam

Arrest in The Hague. Photo: Stephen Peters

On Saturday night  9 July 2011, just before midnight, Alida van Dam (57), daughter of drugs dealer and gangster Gijs van Dam Sr., was kidnapped from her home in the Rijswijkstraat in Amsterdam-West. She was taken to a place outside Amsterdam, where she was set free in the street by the police on Sunday (early) morning 10 July, 2011.  One person (31) was arrested there. Two other kidnappers, 38 and 40, of Turkish and Moroccan origin, were arrested in 136 Van Dyckstraat, The Hague, and according to the police a fourth kidnapper shot himself dead. The police found two firearms on the premises. During and after she was kidnapped, which was actually and “accidently” witnessed by a surveillance team of the police, the police were also able to track down Alida van Dam’s mobile phone, which indicates that Alida and her son were targeted by the police. During the kidnapping a special police team talked to the kidnappers several times. The police are further investigating, expecting to find evidence that more people were involved in the kidnapping of Alida van Dam. Despite her criminal father, brother and son, Alida van Dam herself hasn’t got a criminal record.

The Amsterdam Police are not happy with the situation. This last weekend 60 police officers have worked their butts off to solve a problem between criminals. Maybe they wouldn’t have tried so hard if Alida van Dam would have had a significant criminal record.

42 Oosteinderweg, Aalsmeer

The motive of the kidnapping is not clear yet, but the grapevine says that Alida’s son, Mike Offenberg, owes some Turkish criminals a lot of money and failed to pay them back. In 2004 he invested €1.5m in a villa in Aalsmeer, “to live there with a large family”. However, one year later Offenberg was still not able to pay for the villa, and the regular banks refused to finance the project. So Mike Offenberg tried to find alternative sources. René van den Berg, a financial advisor who was sentenced for money laundring and fraude in 2005 and was released from prison in 2008, agreed to invest almost €800,000.00 in the villa through his Swiss company; former secret service agent Paul Herrie (in 2009 convicted to 2 years in prison for leaking state secrets) was able to cough up €180,000.00, and Chinese businessman Andy Chen came up with €475,000.00. (In 2004 Andy Chen, who also uses an Austrian and a Thai passport, lent more than half a million euros to Mike Offenberg’s uncle Gijs van Dam Jr.) Through Paul Herrie’s bank account in Luxemburg €475,000.00 was transferred to Andy Chen, who used this U-turn construction to “invest” the same amount in the Aalsmeer villa. Mike Offenberg’s financial advisor Edwin Denekamp (1957) urged him to register the villa in the name of one of his French operations, Yucatan France SAS. When Offenberg was interviewed in 2006, he told the police, “I have no idea who benefits from Yucatan France SAS. I’m just an employee, and in that capacity I negociated with the investors. That’s how I earn my money, about €120,000.00 a year.”

How does a money laundring scheme like this work? It’s easy.  The price of real estate is manipulated; the seller will agree to a contract that under-represents the value of the property, and will receive criminal proceeds to make up the difference. Or real estate is purchased with illegal proceeds, then sold. The proceeds from the sale appear to outsiders to be legitimate income. Or an individual will walk in to a casino or a horse race track with cash and buy chips, play for a while and then cash in his chips, for which he will be issued a cheque. The money launderer will then be able to deposit the cheque into his bank account, and claim it as gambling winnings. Mike Offenberg met René van den Berg at the horse race track in Duindigt, near The Hague. René van den Berg told the police, “These people don’t like to be messed about.” On 4 October 2005 Mike Offenberg, Andy Chen and Edwin Denekamp had a meeting in Denekamp’s office in Amsterdam. Offenberg became very aggressive and told Chen that he wanted €200,00.00 immediately, “or I’ll beat the shit out of you”. The same day Andy Chen signed a sideletter, saying, “All the money in my possession, or in the possession of one of my companies, coming from, or via Mike Offenberg, will always be in ultimate control of Mike Offenberg, no matter in which bank account the money has been deposited”.  Mike Offenberg controls Ever East Company Ltd., which is managed by Andy Chen. Mike Offenberg also controls Yucatan Immo SAS, the mother company of Shin Hua Corp BV (now Yucatan BV), the official owners of the Aalsmeer villa. (Dutch businessman Dirk Dobber, who operates in France and was, as a business associate of Edwin Denekamp, involved with Yucatan, but never accused of anything illegal, claims he had both Yucatan BV and Yucatan France dissolved, due to the bad name the villa affair gave the company.)

Mike Offenberg has been connected with drugs trafficking and money laundring. His father Rob Offenberg was a childhood buddy of Heineken kidnappers Willem Holleeder and Cor van Hout, but died in a car accident in Belgium, after which Mike became Van Hout’s and Holleeder’s protégé. In the Amsterdam Gangland Mike Offenberg has always been regarded a spoiled brat, a boaster, a first class prick, probably just because of the fact that he was Van Hout’s and Holleeder’s protégé and didn’t have the opportunity to grow up like a normal kid. It’s not good for a kid to know he’s untouchable. Normal kids in Amsterdam grow up as part of a Happy Meals Gang, where they get their arses kicked. Then they move on to become policemen, gangsters or accountants. Mike Offenberg doesn’t know what it’s like to get your arse kicked. That’s why he didn’t make it as a professional football-player. Every child needs to be guided, but what if you’re a teacher, a football coach or in this case even a mother, and the child is accompanied by two of the most dangerous gangsters in the land? You keep schtumm. (I’m sure his lawyers will use this in the defense of their client. So be it.)

In 2005 the Criminal Intelligence Unit (CIE) received a tip that Offenberg was exploiting a successful cocaine trafficking line with top gangsters Dino Soerel and Willem Holleeder. Supposedly they were sharing the profits equally amongst the three of them. Offenberg himself couldn’t leave the merchandise alone, though. In 2002 he was taken to a hospital by an ambulance, because he O.D.’d on cocaine.

Mike Offenberg has an impressive criminal record, and he is known to be extremely violent. He was convicted for armed robbery, possession of firearms, extortion, fraude, etc. Recently he was connected to money laundring schemes, in which he used the services of financial genius Edwin Denekamp, who used to work for Willem Endstra and Jan-Dirk Paarlberg. Endstra was liquidated on 17 May 2004, Paarlberg was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison on 8 June 2010, for money laundring and fraude.

Some background information

After Martin Erkamps, Frans Meijer, Cor Van Hout, Willem Holleeder and Jan Boellaard kidnapped beer tycoon Freddie Heineken and his driver Ab Doderer in November 1983, Boellaard and Erkamps were arrested; Meijer, Van Hout and Holleeder escaped and were caught much later. Of the 35 million guilders ransom money, 8 million were never found.

Willem Holleeder (l) and Cor van Hout (r)

Cor van Hout and Willem Holleeder were hiding in France and in 1984 their childhood buddy Robbie Offenberg was on his way to pay them a visit. However, in Belgium he died in a car accident.  After that Holleeder and Van Hout took care of Robbie’s son Mike, and they encouraged him to become a professional football player. Mike Offenberg’s mother is Alida van Dam, daughter of drug dealer and gangster Gijs van Dam Sr.

Gijs van Dam Sr.

Gijs van Dam Sr. had become a big fish in the Amsterdam gangland and was involved in large scale international cannabis trafficking. He spent prison time in Belgium and was arrested in France in 1980, but released because they couldn’t prove his guilt. Van Dam Sr., is a wealthy man and was involved with the people who kidnapped Freddy Heineken. He is also believed to have done business with crime boss Sam Klepper, who would be shot and killed in October 2000 in Amsterdam.

Gijs van Dam Jr.

On May 28, 2004, drug dealer and gangster Gijs van Dam Jr., 37, was shot in the head while he sat in a car in the driveway of his home. He died soon after arriving at the VU hospital in Amsterdam. Van Dam’s five-year-old son was sitting next to him at the time of the shooting. Two gunmen escaped the scene by car and police found the burning vehicle abandoned not far from the scene of the shooting. The suspects reportedly transferred to a second car  and a helicopter was called in to assist the search. However, the police failed to track the shooters down. Van Dam Jr. was the son of well known Amsterdam criminal Gijs van Dam Sr., who was deeply involved in the import of cannabis in the 1970s and 80s, and was in business with crime boss Sam Klepper. Van Dam Sr. was sentenced to 20 years jail in France at the start of the 1980s but was released after serving just a couple of years. Van Dam Jr. had previously survived an attempt on his life in December 2002 when he was shot by two men on a motorbike in front of his former home in Amsterdam-Buitenveldert. He had been in a wheelchair ever since. He was also kidnapped at a young age in October 1985 and the kidnappers demanded NLG 8 million in cash as ransom. The final resting place of Van Dam Jr. is close to the grave of criminal Cor van Hout, who was shot and killed in Amstelveen in January 2003. Van Hout is best known for his role in the kidnapping of beer magnate Freddie Heineken in 1983.  Gijs van Dam Jr. and Willem Holleeder were not the best of friends after Van Dam married Holleeder’s ex-wife.

With the arrest of professional football player Donny Huysen in 2006, in connection with cocaine trafficking, another former Ajax colleague, Mike Offenberg, came into the picture. Mike was the son of Rob Offenberg, a childhood buddy of Heineken kidnappers Willem Holleeder and Cor van Hout, and Alida van Dam, daughter of drugs dealer and gangster Gijs van Dam Sr. Alida is the half-sister of Gijs van Dam Jr., who was liquidated in May 2004. Alida van Dam’s home in the Rijswijkstraat in Amsterdam was raided by the police in 2006, in connection with the drugs trafficking. Donny was  sentenced to five years in prison. After their release from prison, Holleeder and Van Hout used to watch their protégé Mike Offenberg and his mate Donny Huysen play, but they made a fool out of themselves in the stadium, throwing with money, and embarrassed the young professional football players, who shortly afterwards decided to give up football and follow the footsteps of Mike’s grandfather Gijs van Dam Sr.

Click here to go to the Chronoly of the Amsterdam Gangland, by Jack Vanderwyk

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War On Drugs was a Failure — Reforms of Drugs Prohibition Regime Needed

The War on Drugs is an extremely controversial campaign of prohibition and foreign military aid and military intervention being undertaken by the United States government, with the official or unofficial assistance of participating countries like The Netherlands, the United Kingdom and many other so-called “modern” democracies, intended to both define and reduce the illegal drug trade. This initiative includes a set of drug policies of the United States that are intended to discourage the production, distribution, and consumption of illegal psychoactive drugs. The term “War on Drugs” was first used by President Richard Nixon on June 17, 1971, about the same time he authorized incursions into Laos to interrupt the Ho Chi Minh trail that passed through Laos and Cambodia. Thousands of innocent Laotians, Cambodians and Vietnamese civilians were killed in these illegal bombings. No wonder President Obama decided not to use the term “War On Drugs” anymore.

On May 13, 2009, Gil Kerlikowske, the current Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, signaled that although it did not plan to significantly alter drug enforcement policy, the Obama administration would not use the term “War on Drugs,” as he claims it is “counter-productive”. One of the alternatives that Mr Kerlikowske has showcased is Sweden’s Drug Control Policies that combine balanced public health approach and opposition to drug legalization. The prevalence rates for cocaine use in Sweden are barely one-fifth of European neighbors such as the United Kingdom and Spain.

In June 2011 the United Nation’s Global Commission on Drug Policy released a critical report on the War on Drugs, declaring “The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world. Fifty years after the initiation of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and years after President Nixon launched the US government’s war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed.”

Global Commission on Drug Policy

Former Presidents of Brazil , Colombia , Mexico and Switzerland , Prime Minister of Greece , Kofi Annan, Richard Branson, George Shultz, Paul Volcker and Other Leaders Call for Major Paradigm Shift in Global Drug Policy

Commission of World Leaders Urges End to Failed Drug War, Fundamental Reforms of Global Drug Prohibition Regime

Today the Global Commission on Drug Policy will release a groundbreaking report at a press conference and tele-conference at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City . The report condemns the drug war as a failure and recommends major reforms of the global drug prohibition regime. The Commission is the most distinguished group of high-level leaders to ever call for such far-reaching changes – including not just alternatives to incarceration and greater emphasis on public health approaches to drug use but also decriminalization and experiments in legal regulation.

The Executive Director of the global advocacy organization AVAAZ, with its nine million members worldwide, will present a public petition in support of the Global Commission’s recommendations that will be given to the United Nations Secretary General.

“Fifty years after the initiation of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and 40 years after President Nixon launched the US government’s global war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed,” said former president of Brazil Fernando Henrique Cardoso. “Let’s start by treating drug addiction as a health issue, reducing drug demand through proven educational initiatives and legally regulating rather than criminalizing cannabis.”

The Commission’s recommendations are summarized in the Executive Summary below this release. They include:

End the criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others.

Encourage experimentation by governments with models of legal regulation of drugs (especially cannabis) to undermine the power of organized crime and safeguard the health and security of their citizens.

Ensure that a variety of treatment modalities are available – including not just methadone and buprenorphine treatment but also the heroin-assisted treatment programs that have proven successful in many European countries and Canada.

Apply human rights and harm reduction principles and policies both to people who use drugs as well as those involved in the lower ends of illegal drug markets such as farmers, couriers and petty sellers.

“Overwhelming evidence from Europe, Canada and Australia now demonstrates the human and social benefits both of treating drug addiction as a health rather than criminal justice problem and of reducing reliance on prohibitionist policies,” said former Swiss president Ruth Dreifuss. “These policies need to be adopted worldwide, with requisite changes to the international drug control conventions.”

“We can no longer ignore the extent to which drug-related violence, crime and corruption in Latin America are the results of failed drug war policies,” said former Colombian president César Gaviria. “Now is the time to break the taboo on discussion of all drug policy options, including alternatives to drug prohibition.”

“The war on drugs has failed to cut drug usage, but has filled our jails, cost millions in tax payer dollars, fuelled organized crime and caused thousands of deaths. We need a new approach, one that takes the power out of the hands of organized crime and treats people with addiction problems like patients, not criminals,” said Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group and cofounder of The Elders, United Kingdom. “The good news is new approaches focused on regulation and decriminalization have worked. We need our leaders, including business people, looking at alternative, fact based approaches. We need more humane and effective ways to reduce the harm caused by drugs.

The one thing we cannot afford to do is to go on pretending the “war on drugs” is working.”

Commission Members (not all of them attended the June 2, 2011 press conference): 

Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations, Ghana

Louise Arbour, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, president of the International Crisis Group, Canada

Richard Branson, entrepreneur, advocate for social causes, founder of the Virgin Group, cofounder of The Elders, United Kingdom

Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former President of Brazil (chair)

Marion Caspers-Merk, former State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry of Health

Maria Cattaui, Petroplus Holdings Board member, former Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce, Switzerland

Ruth Dreifuss, former President of Switzerland and Minister of Home Affairs

Carlos Fuentes, writer and public intellectual, Mexico

César Gaviria, former President of Colombia

Asma Jahangir, human rights activist, former UN Special Rapporteur on Arbitrary, Extrajudicial and Summary Executions, Pakistan

Michel Kazatchkine, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria , France

Mario Vargas Llosa, writer and public intellectual, Peru

George Papandreou, Prime Minister of Greece

George P. Shultz, former Secretary of State , United States (honorary chair)

Javier Solana, former European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy , Spain

Thorvald Stoltenberg, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Norway

Paul Volcker, former Chairman of the United States Federal Reserve and of the Economic Recovery Board

John Whitehead, banker and civil servant, chair of the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation, United States

Ernesto Zedillo, former President of Mexico


The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world. Fifty years after the initiation of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and 40 years after President Nixon launched the US government’s war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed.

Vast expenditures on criminalization and repressive measures directed at producers, traffickers and consumers of illegal drugs have clearly failed to effectively curtail supply or consumption. Apparent victories in eliminating one source or trafficking organization are negated almost instantly by the emergence of other sources and traffickers. Repressive efforts directed at consumers impede public health measures to reduce HIV/AIDS, overdose fatalities and other harmful consequences of drug use. Government expenditures on futile supply reduction strategies and incarceration displace more cost-effective and evidence-based investments in demand and harm reduction.

Our principles and recommendations can be summarized as follows:

End the criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others. Challenge rather than reinforce common misconceptions about drug markets, drug use and drug dependence.

Encourage experimentation by governments with models of legal regulation of drugs to undermine the power of organized crime and safeguard the health and security of their citizens. This recommendation applies especially to cannabis, but we also encourage other experiments in decriminalization and legal regulation that can accomplish these objectives and provide models for others.

Offer health and treatment services to those in need. Ensure that a variety of treatment modalities are available, including not just methadone and buprenorphine treatment but also the heroin-assisted treatment programs that have proven successful in many European countries and Canada. Implement syringe access and other harm reduction measures that have proven effective in reducing transmission of HIV and other blood-borne infections as well as fatal overdoses. Respect the human rights of people who use drugs. Abolish abusive practices carried out in the name of treatment – such as forced detention, forced labor, and physical or psychological abuse – that contravene human rights standards and norms or that remove the right to selfdetermination.

Apply much the same principles and policies stated above to people involved in the lower ends of illegal drug markets, such as farmers, couriers and petty sellers. Many are themselves victims of violence and intimidation or are drug dependent. Arresting and incarcerating tens of millions of these people in recent decades has filled prisons and destroyed lives and families without reducing the availability of illicit drugs or the power of criminal organizations.

There appears to be almost no limit to the number of people willing to engage in such activities to better their lives, provide for their families, or otherwise escape poverty. Drug control resources are better directed elsewhere.

Invest in activities that can both prevent young people from taking drugs in the first place and also prevent those who do use drugs from developing more serious problems. Eschew simplistic ‘just say no’ messages and ‘zero tolerance’ policies in favor of educational efforts grounded in credible information and prevention programs that focus on social skills and peer influences. The most successful prevention efforts may be those targeted at specific at-risk groups.

Focus repressive actions on violent criminal organizations, but do so in ways that undermine their power and reach while prioritizing the reduction of violence and intimidation. Law enforcement efforts should focus not on reducing drug markets per se but rather on reducing their harms to individuals, communities and national security.

Begin the transformation of the global drug prohibition regime. Replace drug policies and strategies driven by ideology and political convenience with fiscally responsible policies and strategies grounded in science, health, security and human rights – and adopt appropriate criteria for their evaluation.

Review the scheduling of drugs that has resulted in obvious anomalies like the flawed categorization of cannabis, coca leaf and MDMA. Ensure that the international conventions are interpreted and/or revised to accommodate robust experimentation with harm reduction, decriminalization and legal regulatory policies.

Break the taboo on debate and reform. The time for action is now.

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Yab Yum To Open Again and Spread Over The World

On June 30, 2011, Chris Kraijpoel bought the club Yab Yum, the brand and the website for €4 million, while the actual value is estimated over €9 million. Kraijpoel desperately needs a general manager, as he is not allowed to manage the sex empire himself, because he still is a suspect in a money-laundring case.

On 4 March 2009 property developer Peter Petersen was shot dead outside the Jan Tabak restaurant in Bussum. At 10am he was shot in the head in his black BMW X6, as he arrived on the parking lot of the restaurant. In the Amsterdam Gangland he was known as ‘Fat Peter’. He was a business partner of drug dealer Kees Houtman, and he was probably extorted by Willem Holleeder. Holleeder forced Petersen to “buy” the sex club Satyricon from him, after which Petersen was supposed to return the club to Holleeder.  

Kraijpoel expects the club to re-open its doors on January 1, 2012. Also he plans to open a Yab Yum Club in every significant city in the world, starting with London.    

Yab Yum was one of the best-known and most exclusive brothels in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Located in a 17th century canal house on the Singel, it mostly catered to businessmen and foreign visitors. A second Yab Yum operated for a while in Rotterdam, but has since been closed.

In January 2008, the city of Amsterdam closed the brothel by revoking its license, alleging that it was being used for criminal activity.

As of 2005, the entrance fee was 70 euros, which included a drink. Sex for one hour costs 300 euros, but typically required in addition the purchase of an expensive bottle of champagne.

From its beginning in the 1980s until the legalization of brothels in 2000, the Yab Yum operated as a “licenced club with no members” and was tolerated according to police guidelines, as long as no drugs and no violence was involved. The club has advertised in student newspapers in order to find employees.

In 1997, it was reported that a woman earned up to $10,000 per month working at Yab Yum, tax free. Anticipating stricter regulation, the club agreed to pay taxes for its 55 employees starting January 1, 1998.

In anticipation of the official legalization of brothels on October 1, 2000, Yab Yum owner Theo Heuft applied to open a “relax service” at the Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, to offer exclusive food, drink and massages to travelers. When he was turned down, he filed a lawsuit. The airport brothel was never opened.

In an interview in Millionair Magazine in February 2008, Heuft said that the brothel made its best ever earnings, just over 40,000 euros, on the evening in 1985 when the Dutch football team beat Cyprus 7-1 in Amsterdam. He complained about the “dreadful” atmosphere caused by the “ordinary clientele” that night.

The club has repeatedly been mentioned in connection with corruption affairs. In 1998 it was alleged that a director of a brokerage house regularly obtained insider information by inviting senior executives to Yab Yum. In 2002 a former manager of a building company alleged that civil servants were commonly bribed with visits to Yab Yum.

In 1990 the major drug trafficker Klaas Bruinsma and his associate Roy Adkins, from London, fought in the club after one of their operations had gone sour; shots were fired but nobody was injured and nobody talked to the police. Adkins was assassinated later that year and Bruinsma was shot to death in 1991. See: Chronology of the Amsterdam Gangland.

A newspaper article in 2006 reported that true ownership of the brothel had long been in the hands of mafia figures, beginning with Klaas Bruinsma, who called it “the club house”. After Bruinsma’s death, his associates Sam Klepper and John Mieremet took over, along with the Dutch Hells Angels. Klepper was murdered in 2000; Mieremet survived an assassination attempt in 2002 but was murdered in 2005.

In November 2007 it was reported that the city of Amsterdam was trying to close the brothel by revoking its license, alleging without going into details that it was being used for criminal activity. This was part of a larger campaign of mayor Job Cohen to reduce the number of sex businesses operating in the city center. Closure was done with the Bibob act which does not require proof of criminal activities or criminal connections: reasonably strong indications are sufficient.

Yab Yum appealed the revocation of the license. At court, the city’s lawyer alleged that owner Hennie Vittali was a front man for the Hells Angels, who had taken over the club in 1999 following blackmail and threats, buying it for €1.8m although the market price was put at €9m. On January 4, 2008 the court confirmed the action of the city. In a public statement, the brothel denied any connection with the Hells Angels and vowed to appeal the ruling. The brothel closed on January 7, 2008. On January 15, 2008 a higher court confirmed the decision; Yab Yum lost its license and would remain closed.

On April 3, 2010 an offer was announced; sex club owner Hennie Vittali, descendent of Giovanni Antonio Vittali, a chimney sweeper who came to Amsterdam before 1840, was asking €6m for the name and property.

On June 30, 2010 Hennie Vittali accepted Chris Kraijpoel’s offer of €4 million for the building, the inventory, the brand name, and the domain name. Kraijpoel is going to use the name Yab Yum to build a sex empire, from sex club activities to selling lingerie.

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Tackling organized crime in the Amsterdam Red Light District


This is my translation of a joint press release from the city of Amsterdam, the district center, the Amsterdam-Amstelland Police, the Public Ministry, the Ministry of Security and Justice, the WODC and the Amsterdam Tax Services, which was published yesterday, May 26, 2011, and covers the period 2007 – 2011.

Organized crime is firmly embedded in the Amsterdam Red Light District, which means, for example, that they have a firm grip on the prostitution sector. Human trafficking, exploitation and forced prostitution are common. Also there is a growing nexus of organized crime with the backdoor activities of coffee shops. In order to tackle these structural problems a continuation of close cooperation between government agencies is needed. This is the key recommendation in the final report of the Emergo Project that was presented to Minister of Security and Justice Opstelten and Amsterdam Mayor Van der Laan.

In 2007, the then Justice Minister Donner and the then Amsterdam Mayor Cohen decided to set up a systematic study of the major / organized crime in the Red Light District. Under the project name Emergo the City of Amsterdam, the district center, the Amsterdam-Amstelland police, the Public Ministry, the Ministry of Security and Justice, the WODC and the Amsterdam Tax Services work together. In this joint venture streets, people and industries such as coffee shops and the hotel industry are thoroughly vetted. Based on the findings actions were taken and dozens of checks, criminal investigations into human trafficking and other forms of serious (organized) crime took place. Also twelve trafficking investigations over the past four years in the Red Light District were extensively analyzed and described.

Trafficking and prostitution

Two criminal investigations of trafficking in the window prostitution in Amsterdam’s Red Light District started under Emergo’s flag. Ten other criminal cases over the past four years which mainly took place in the Red Light District are also included in the analysis. The suspects in the studies, traffickers and pimps, are both men and women. They are mainly from Turkey, Hungary, the Netherlands and Germany, and are on average 30 years of age. The victims are all women. One in three victims of trafficking is 21 years or younger, in one case there was a minor. Suspects and victims know each other from prostitution areas, bars and nightclubs, or from their country of origin. In some cases, women became victims through Internet activities. Suspects use violence and threaten to use brute force to maintain exploitation, but also have many subtle ways to suppress women. They arrange accommodation and registration at the Chamber of Commerce for the prostitutes and intensively check their work at the brothels. Perpetrators and victims often live together. The studies describe the role of property owners, window operators and accountants in maintaining the forced prostitution of these young women.

It needs to be considered that in such cases it’s often not easy to get the evidence, which makes it difficult to arrive at a conviction. The integrated approach of Emergo shows that it is nevertheless possible to effectively intervene. The investigation of trafficking in prostitution was carried out by the WODC. Their extensive report is published simultaneously with the Emergo report on WODC’s website.


The Emergo project also investigated the coffee shops in the Red Light District. Research by the Public Prosecutor of the antecedents of all operators and managers of coffee shops in the area showed that 317 of the 560 examined people have criminal records. 145 of these individuals have relevant convictions; jointly they committed 1036 crimes. (21% drug-related crimes and 10.3% violent crimes.) Links with people from the heavy (organized) crime, both business related and private, are common. The investigations into organized cannibis production and grow shops in Amsterdam show that most of the cannabis comes from professional circuits. Calculations show that on an annual basis about 400 professional farms are needed to meet the demand for cannabis in the Red Light District. Getting insight into the actual purchase and profit from coffee shops is actually not possible due to the uncontrollable “back doors”. Amsterdam has already decided to reduce the number of coffee shops in postcode area 1012 to 26 in order to reduce the high concentration of coffee shops. There are also discussions with the Government about how to tackle organized crime behind the cannabis cultivation and coffee shops, and how to improve this approach.


In the 1012 postcode area there are approximately 110 hotels located, of which 45 have been examined. This included investigation of money laundering structures, dodgy ownership of property, extortion and escort activities in the hotels. The conclusion was that there isn’t a single criminal group or sector, or parts thereof, active in these hotels in an illegal way, though in some cases laundering of drugs money was suspected.

ICT research

The ICT studies include the professional Amsterdam criminals (ABC’s) related to a 1012 postcode. Also, the percentages of criminal convictions of these individuals related to authorized companies throughout the area were mapped. The operators of  18% of the licensed companies have a criminal record; while the managers of 49% of the licensed companies have a criminal record. In coffee shops, the percentage is higher.

Emergo: a combination of administrative and criminal approach

The reason for cooperating in Emergo was the grave concern about the mixing of the underworld and the upper world in the area. This concern is now supported by large-scale study. Emergo has shown that close cooperation between law enforcement and investigation is effective. The combined criminal, administrative and fiscal approach in Emergo is parallel to the 1012 municipal project. Both aim to control organized crime in the city center. The Emergo project has shown that it’s often unclear which information may be shared between public authorities. The regulations in this regard should be adjusted and made easier, to be able to tackle crime as one government body in the future. The Emergo method is continued permanently. The report strongly recommends that the collaboration between governments, as developed within Emergo, are made structural, within the framework of the Regional Information and Expertise Centre North-Holland (RIEC-NH).

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Hookers, booze, and drugs

Guidelines for men visiting prostitutes in the Amsterdam Red Light District 

In the Red Light District no-one sees moral restraints in using services of a sex worker. I you see a girl behind a “designated” window, and you might want to be with her, you show your interest. If she invites you to come in, you have to make clear what sexual pleasure you expect, and the both of you have to agree on the price, usually around € 50,- for 15-20 minutes. Once you have agreed, which usually takes a few seconds, you can step inside and she closes the curtain on the window. You have to pay in advance. The women don’t work without a condom, so don’t waist your time negotiating about that. 

If you want something extra, like her being completely nude, or you need more time, you have to pay more. Most prostitutes don’t kiss on the lips, and French kissing is a big no no too, so be aware of that. Anything unusual you want should be discussed up front, to avoid disappointment.  

It’s a common fact that tourists have a couple of drinks before they visit a prostitute. If you are a bit drunk, she will probably ask you to pay more, which is reasonable, because it’s also a common fact that men need more time when they had something to drink. If you’re pissed off your head, she will probably not invite you in at all. By the way, being pissed off your head is the best guarantee to get mugged.  

Last but not least, in Holland prostitution is a legal profession, and prostitutes have the right to be treated respectfully, just like any other person. You want something from her, and if she agrees about the task and the time, and you agree about the price she asks, you have a deal. However, she is always in charge, and she decides what happens and for how long. If she asks you to leave, you leave. You could be in big trouble if you ignore these guidelines. 

Cannabis and Stag Weekends 

The basis of the Dutch policies regarding recreational drugs is the strict division between hard drugs and soft drugs. In everyday Dutch life never the twain shall meet. Most drug retail takes place in coffee shops, where cannabis and herbal cannabis are sold. From the late 1970s, when as a result of the Amsterdam tolerance cannabis could be sold in the shops, their number has grown explosively. In the city of Amsterdam, their number grew from 10 in 1980 to over 350 in 1990. In 1994 there were all together 452 shops where soft drugs were available. However, the competition is high and the returns are not always very prosperous. The coffee shops are only tolerated if they don’t allow any trade or possession of hard drugs. In the early 1980s this led to harsh measures within the sector itself, to get rid of hard drugs. The police also constantly monitor the separation of the circuits of hard and soft drugs, but nowadays they very rarely find hard drugs in coffee shops. There’s a variety of styles, which usually amaze the tourists: trendy, hippie, hard rock, chic, Turkish, Indian, American, acid house, Surinam, post-modern, Rasta, Afro, et cetera. And there is also the friendly neighbourhood coffee shop, of course. This is Amsterdam, you know? 

Nevertheless the coffee shops are constantly under suspicion, especially when there are complaints from residents about nuisance. They will not be prosecuted if they don’t serve alcoholic drinks, if there is no overt advertisement of soft drugs, if no hard drugs are offered, if there is no nuisance, and if access is denied to people less than 16 years of age. Many coffee shops have been closed for breaking these rules. In 2010 there were “only” 223 coffee shops left in the city of Amsterdam, which means that at least 229 of them have been closed since 1994.  

The wholesale trade in soft drugs is, almost by definition, entirely in the hands of “criminal organisations”. The use of soft drugs is tolerated to a certain quantum, while the trade in them is tackled hard. This is a rather schizophrenic situation. International political agreements prevent the legal import of soft drugs, so the only difference between a legal business and a “criminal organisation” is a piece of paper. Once the import and wholesale of soft drugs would be allowed, and many people, including high ranking police officers from all over the world, agree that soft drugs should be legalised, the people who are in this business would be respected business people, from one day to another.  

On January 10, 2011, the Prosecution Counsel established an agreement with three real estate companies, in which the directors of these companies agreed to pay €2.5 million to avoid prosecution for real estate fraud and money laundering. Harm Trimp, one of the directors, had to pay €350.000,00 and needed to agree to 120 hours of community service to avoid prosecution.  

Now have a look at the Dutch situation: a coffee shop is allowed to have a maximum stash of 500 grams of soft drugs, and is allowed to sell each customer 5 grams of soft drugs. All this is completely legal. So the coffee shop makes a profit, and this profit is legal.  

However, the coffee shops sell much more than 500 grams per day, and they need to buy their soft drugs wholesale, while the wholesalers need to import the soft drugs, and all this is illegal. It’s a crazy situation. So the buyers don’t commit a crime, the sellers don’t commit a crime, but the wholesaler does commit a crime, and only his profits are illegal, so he needs to launder this money to make it legal, like the money that’s made by the rest of the soft drugs business in the Netherlands. 

  The Dutch courts and prosecutors are fully aware of this inadequacy of the law, so they tend to maintain the difference between hard drugs and soft drugs, and if someone is caught for wholesaling drugs, or laundering money that comes out of this business, it would make a huge difference if this money was coming from the wholesale of hard drugs or soft drugs. If it was coming from hard drugs, all the money and the goods bought with this money would be confiscated. If it was coming from soft drugs exclusively, the Prosecution Counsel would probably settle for 10% of the turnabouts, plus a minor community service if you would have acted really daft, that is, for the public to see, to make the Prosecution Counsel look stupid.     

For the ones who think soft drugs are a nice business, have a look at the penalties:  

– Sale, possession, growth, up to 30 grams: 1 month imprisonment and/or € 2.250, 00 fine. (Usually the police will let you go free, with your soft drugs, if you have less than 30 grams on you, because such an offence belongs to the “lowest priority” category.) 

– Amateur growth, sale, export, and possession of more than 30 grams: 2 years imprisonment and/or €11.250, 00 fine. 

– Professional growth, sale, transport, possession, import, export: 4 years imprisonment and/or €45.000, 00 fine.  

Please note: these penalties only apply within the Netherlands. If you are smuggling drugs to your own country, and the Dutch police don’t catch you, you still have to deal with customs and police in your own country, and they will probably not be as lenient.   

Binging in Amsterdam 

Dutch people usually don’t binge, not when it comes to drinking, and certainly not when it comes to using recreational drugs. We’re quite moderate in this respect, actually, and we like to take our time, unlike many foreign tourists who seem to be in a lot of hurry to get pissed or stoned. I guess this has to do with the Dutch tolerance.  

Being a sea port, we’ve always seen foreigners who thought they had arrived in paradise after they entered the city of Amsterdam. The Scandinavians couldn’t wait to get pissed, because in their countries alcohol was only available in state controlled shops, at ridiculous prices, while the Brits were used to their pubs, which would close at 10.30pm, so they needed to binge to get some alcohol inside of them within a very short time.  

Nowadays, with low cost airlines like EasyJet flying on Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, we notice the same greed. Tourists are coming here for a nice weekend, and there’s so much to explore, in such a short time.  

The businesses in the city centre are used to these tourists, and they are important, so they welcome their clients. The more, the merrier. In many websites you will find organised stag or hen weekends in the Amsterdam Red Light District. At the end of the day, these people will be completely out of their heads, and will have problems finding their hotels, being sick all the way. The next day they wake up at four or five in the afternoon, only to hurry back to the Red Light District and start all over again, because the day after that they need to fly back to their countries. Most people who were part of such stag or hen parties don’t even remember half of what happened.  

Please notice that public drunkenness and misconduct is an offence in the Netherlands, which could cost you a €380 fine and/or a night in a police cell. Offending a police officer, or any other functionary, could cost you €400 to €600. Public urinating will cost you €90 (farting included), unless you dress up like a dog and manage to get away with it.  

Usually the management of the pubs you visit are quite happy when you spend a lot of money there, but don’t expect other pub owners to be as happy when you come into their places at the end of the night, completely sloshed, just to have one drink and foul their toilets. And don’t forget that the Red Light District is a neighbourhood where families have been actually living since centuries, way before EasyJet existed, and that they actually have children who actually go to school in the morning. It’s not nice for them when they need to find themselves a way through your sick.  

I wish all the people who want to visit the Amsterdam Red Light District a wonderful time, but please remember that you are guests, and very welcome guests indeed, as long as you behave.

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Drugs on the Head of the Zeedijk

Zeedijk, Amsterdam, 1994

Let’s face it, if the heroin trade wouldn’t have caused so much nuisance to local businesses, the Ministry of Justice would never have invested all these millions into easily accessible social services. Actually, politicians didn’t want to help heroin addicts, they just wanted to get rid of the nuisance.  

Ever since the 1960s Amsterdam has known a sharp contrast between so called “soft drugs” and “hard drugs”. Soft drugs were tolerated, and the police knew that coffee shops had their “house dealers”. The prominent gangsters of the Red Light District were happy to smuggle soft drugs, but they didn’t touch hard drugs, because they were a different matter altogether. Hard drugs harmed people, destroyed people’s lives and the lives of their families, and moreover, if you got caught dealing or smuggling hard drugs you went to jail for a very long time.  

Because the local gangsters wouldn’t touch hard drugs, it was just not done, people from outside stepped in to fill the gap.  

In the early 1970s heroin became widely available in the Netherlands. The remaining experimenters and more dedicated multiple drug users, in particular those injecting opiates or amphetamines, were the first groups to experience heroin. It was certainly not a working class drug. The intensity of the first experiments with heroin initially suppressed and masked additional drug use among these users. As a result, with the introduction of heroin, the phenomenon of drug use was redefined from “drug problem” to “heroin problem,” and moved into a new and highly turbulent phase. From that moment on, heroin and its initial users went their own way. From about 1972 to 1975 they were joined by a completely new user group with an entirely different socio-demographic and cultural background and little drug experience — the Surinamese. Shortly after, a significant number of South Moluccan users followed, and around 1975, after heroin entered mainstream discotheques, another group — working class white Dutch adolescents — appeared on the scene. This group, which previously had limited their drug use to tobacco and alcoholic beverages, progressed very fast from cannabis to heroin. At the end of the 1970s a second generation of young adolescents with similar socio-economic characteristics followed. Somewhat simultaneously, second generation immigrants, in particular Moroccans, became involved in heroin use. 

The early 1980s was also the period in which cocaine made its way up; into post modern entertainment and the ranks of the young urban unemployed and their working counterparts. In these groups, use of cocaine, seemingly, has not lead to massive problems. But, almost simultaneously cocaine has also taken the stairs down. Already in 1981, heroin and cocaine were sold together on the Zeedijk in Amsterdam. 

Zwarte Jopie (Black Jopie), his real name was Maurits de Vries, was a main figure in the history of the Dutch gangland, because in those days he was the first real padrone of the Amsterdam gangland, and because he had contacts with the American Mafia. However, Zwarte Jopie was an old fashioned Amsterdam gangster, and he didn’t like hard drug dealers and junkies. He was into sex clubs and gambling, and had his own empire on the Oudezijds Voorburgwal. Zwarte Jopie protected the areas of his commercial interests, and he made sure that these areas were free from drug dealers and addicts, using body builders and martial arts champions as security guards. With corruption in the police force, the police was your best friend as long as you paid. Jopie thought that the presence of so many sports types in “his” streets could prevent a lot of trouble. And he proved to be right. Jopie even had his own waste disposal service, which picked up the garbage several times a day, not only from his own companies, but also from residents and businesses along the route. However, not everyone in the Red Light District was happy with Zwarte Jopie. Drug dealers and addicts moved to other streets and alleys, where Jopie had no interests. The residents of these streets, like those of the Zeedijk, particularly the Head of the Zeedijk, were quite pissed off with Zwarte Jopie, because he made their lives hell.  

While they actually had handed over the area of the Oudezijds Voorburgwal to Zwarte Jopie and his security guards, the police had lost the territory of the Head of the Zeedijk to a mob of heroin dealers and junkies. This part of the Red Light District was a war zone.  

Something had to be done.  

The Zeedijk runs parallel to the eastern border of the Red Light District. From the nineteenth century the Red Light District was developed here, and the number of bars and restaurants increased. Although much money was earned in this neighbourhood, it was not invested. The Zeedijk became run down and impoverished. Already in the 1970s the street was notorious, being the centre of the hard drugs trade, and for a long time it was a no-go area. Buildings were boarded up, drug dealers and junkies made the scene, no mail was delivered and the garbage could only be collected under police escort. It was complete degradation.  

The local Warmoesstraat police station was a dirty joint, and they didn’t have a kitchen. The policemen on duty had to get the food for the detainees from Chinese restaurants, or sandwich shops. Elderly policemen would prepare coffee. The desk was busy all day. Arrested people, drunken prostitutes, a murderer who came to turn himself in, mugged tourists, they all entered through the same door and stood at the same desk, to wait for their turn. That’s impossible now; detainees have a separate entrance.  

It was an exceptional environment. In the morning you could still smell the piss and vomit from the previous day.  

Our dream of one huge integrated easily accessible social services centre for heroin addicts didn’t come true. One of the reasons was that the residents didn’t want such a centre in their neighbourhoods. Another reason was that the minority groups, especially the Surinamese, the South Moluccans and the Moroccans, wanted their own centres, specialised in the specific ethnic problems of their addicts.  

The neighbours favoured Zwarte Jopie’s methods of dealing with dealers and junkies: beat the shit out of them and kick them out of the neighbourhood. Most police officers backed them up in this opinion. However, their superiors soon realised that this wouldn’t be solving the problems, just shifting them to other places.  

So we settled in different buildings, even in a barge, scattered around the Central Station. Close enough to the Head of the Zeedijk, but not actually in it, although our streetcornerworkers were there all the time, some of them undercover.  

The Amsterdam police, and the local and national authorities as a whole, had suffered enormous loss of face, because the city of Amsterdam was a main tourist attraction, yet they were not able to solve the massive problems in the Head of the Zeedijk, which spread throughout the city. This was mainly a political problem, caused by the economical cuts. The budgets of the police were cut, so choices had to be made. The police argued that they couldn’t be in two places at the same time, and that the government needed to give them more money if they wanted the problems solved. The government agreed that something had to be done. 

Cleaning up the Head of the Zeedijk and solving the problems was a massive operation. Apart from local authorities and courts, and private organisations, four ministries were involved: the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (Home Office), the Ministry of Health and Wellbeing, and the Ministry of Social Affairs. Being part of the Justice team, I was involved in several structural consultations, like the tripartite talks between the Counsel for the Prosecution, the Courts and Social Services, the tripartite talks between the Counsel for the Prosecution, the Courts and the President of the Bar Council, the tripartite talks between the Police, Social Services and the City Council, etcetera. In those days I spent most of my time in neon lit offices.  

More than ten thousand heroin junkies were living in Amsterdam, and a lot of them were hanging out in the Head of the Zeedijk, the infamous no-go area. The plan was to get a picture of the Amsterdam heroin problems, which was our task, while at the same time the Amsterdam police force would be temporarily reinforced, to implement a repressive regime.  

In a nutshell it worked like this: the police would arrest heroin users and dealers. Most of the small-time dealers were addicts themselves, so they also were our responsibility. Immediately after their arrest we would visit them in a police station or in prison, where we would offer them the services of our centre and maintenance rations of methadone. We instructed our physicians to be generous with these rations, to prevent addicts to get withdrawal symptoms. If the detainees refused our offer, they would be prosecuted. Hardly any of them refused. If they showed up in the Zeedijk area after their arrest, they would get a court injunction for this area.  

The police shut down the squats in the Head of the Zeedijk, including the illegal drug cafes, and the number of heroin addicts fell from ten thousand to seven thousand. That figure however was quite deceptive. No, we didn’t manage to get three thousand heroin addicts clean. Instead, we turned three thousand heroin addicts into methadone addicts, and to be honest, that was a good thing. Our methadone was a clean pharmaceutical product, contrary to the street heroin they used before. One of our clients, let’s call her Jodie, received a huge inheritance, and for three years she was able to buy good quality heroin. She looked absolutely healthy. But then she ran out of money and she started to buy street heroin. Within a year she lost most of her teeth and she looked awfully unhealthy. That’s when we started to think of a special program for severe heroin addicts, giving them clean heroin, because a lot of these addicts sold their methadone on the Blauwe Brug (Blue Bridge), which therefore was nicknamed Pillenbrug (Pill Bridge), and with the money they got from that, they bought street heroin. (Later we managed to get one hundred people into this special program, as a start; now there are about three thousand people in the program. These people live normal lives, in normal neighbourhoods, and are no longer stigmatised or criminalised because of their addiction. They get their clean heroin at the local pharmacy.)  

Even international media like the BBC and the International Herald Tribune reported the clean up in the Red Light District. But this commotion was nothing new; in fact it’s a cyclical movement. The Red Light District has always attracted all sorts of people. It’s a neighbourhood where you can do things you’re not allowed to do at home. Cleaning up is an integral part of the history of the neighbourhood.  

But this time it took years before the neighbourhood really recovered.  

On August 5, 1986, police officer Peter Lugten, 29, was killed when he tried to negotiate between some dealers and a paranoid junkie. He stabbed Lugten to death.  

On May 13, 1988, at 3am, the influential trumpeter Chet Baker, probably under the influence of drugs, fell from a Prins Hendrik Hotel window on the second floor, at the Prins Hendrikkade 55, near the corner of the Warmoesstraat and the Head of the Zeedijk. The police found heroin and cocaine in his room. Chet Baker didn’t survive this fall. A memorial stone was erected near the hotel.  

During the heroin craze many people had left the neighbourhood. Their businesses were destroyed, their lives were ruined. Some of them had been my clients, when I managed my friend’s pub for two years, and some of their children, who I saw grow up from early childhood, became my clients when I was a probation officer, specialised in criminal addicts. Two of them died, they committed suicide in prison. I went to their funerals and comforted their parents. For them life in the Red Light District would never be the same.  

At the request of local residents the City of Amsterdam came to rescue and in 1985 the NV Economic Recovery Zeedijk was founded. This organisation was partially funded by private parties, and was thus a form of public-private partnerships. By purchasing properties from private owners and renting the premises to legitimate businesses, they succeeded to break the negative spiral.  

After thorough refurbishment activities of the municipality, the street slowly recovered. Drug trafficking largely disappeared. Once more it was a typical old Amsterdam street, always with a large mixed audience and many restaurants. This neighbourhood is now called the Nautical Quarter.  

In 1989 I walked my oldest daughter, then 16, to the Central Station. Instead of taking the detour via the Damrak or the Gelderse Kade, I decided to take the direct route, via the Zeedijk. 

“Are you sure it’s safe, Jack?” she asked. 

“Pretty sure,” I said.  

We walked and saw a bunch of Surinamese guys hanging out opposite Nam Kee’s restaurant. “I’m afraid, Jack,” my daughter said. 

“Just keep walking,” I said.  

When we were about to pass the guys, one of them shouted, “Hey Jackie!” 

I was surprised and replied, “Hey Erroll, how are you doing, man?” 

We had a nice chat, and my daughter felt quite safe. Then we had to move on, because she had a train to catch.  

“Bye Jack!” said Errol. “Don’t be a stranger!” 

“I won’t!”

Read this story. Police Commissioner Toorenaar and I have urged the Dutch authorities ever since the early 1980s to legalize drugs and to decriminalize individual drug users. And finally, thirty years later, people like Kofi Anan and Richard Branson agree with us. It’s about fucking time!

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Chinatown and the Drug Scene

It was Police Commissioner Gerard Toorenaar who advocated the idea of tolerating drugs and prostitution, instead of forbidding them, because if you tolerated these phenomenons you would be able to control them.  

In 1911 the Steam Society Netherlands recruited in secret Chinese stokers in London and Liverpool, to break the impending strike by Dutch sailors in advance. But they were excluded from work because the Dutch saw this as unfair competition. The Chinese stokers didn’t have any money for the trip back to the U.K., and they hardly had opportunities on the Dutch labour market. So they lingered in the areas near the Red Light District, because they had no women. For that reason the Rotterdam city council tolerated prostitution in the areas where the Chinese sailors lived, after they had evicted brothels in other parts of the city. That seems to be the main reason why in so many cities around the world Chinatown is never far from the Red Light District.  

The global recession of 1929 drove many Dutch shipping companies to bankruptcy. Only much later a police officer managed to persuade shipping companies to transport “excess Chinese” to Batavia, in the Dutch East Indies, for a cheap fair. Because they had to make a living somehow, many Chinese men were now selling peanut products in the streets. Later they founded Chinese restaurants. Thanks to the success of the Chinese peanut cookies, the Chinese spread rapidly throughout the Netherlands. Some five hundred Chinese settled in Amsterdam, and around the Binnen Bantammerstraat the Amsterdam Chinatown was created.  

In 1966 there were eight Chinese restaurants for the Dutch, specialised in colonial Dutch East Indies food, four gambling houses, two opium dens, a few boarding houses, one Chinese hairdresser, two Chinese shops, three clubhouses for various Chinese ethnicities, and four Chinese restaurants for Chinese. After the Second World War there was a tolerated opium den in the Zeedijk. Only Chinese people were allowed inside. But the Chinese “pharmacists” also had customers outside their own circles. Sometimes Dutch people from the Red Light District treated themselves to a “Chinese powder” in the Bantammerstraat. Gambling, one of the six “sins”, was one of the few forms of entertainment the Chinese allowed themselves. Gamblers who had lost a lot of money were helped in their own circles. If not, then there was always the organisation Big Ears for them, to borrow money at usurious rates. The police left some practices, such as smoking opium and illegal gambling, untouched.  

In those days, I was only 15 years old, I used to work for Mr Ma Hen Chang, who owned three Chinese restaurants. Sometimes I had to work as a waiter, sometimes as a cook, whatever was needed most. One day Mr Ma only owned one restaurant, because he lost the other two, by gambling.  

Every once in a while the police had a look into the opium dens, and then left again. Opium was part of the Chinese culture. Moreover, it doesn’t cause any trouble, because someone who has used opium does not run around wild.  

But it got out of hand in the early 1970s when the Triads, the Chinese organised crime, became involved, and drug-related crime and nuisance came to exist.  

In 1972 the first triad quartermasters arrived. Five triads were active in 1974, particularly in drugs and gambling. One of the triads, Ah Kong, won the battle for heroin. The other triads were 14 K, Wo Lee Kwan, Wo Sing Wo, and Tai Huen Chai. The Tai Lo’s, the capos of the triads, were official owners of restaurants which served as a cover.  

In 1974 the heroin trade was mainly in the hands of Hong Kong Chinese, grouped in the 14K, the Wo Lee Kwan and Wo Sing Wo. At that time the Chinese community in Amsterdam consisted of about 5,000 people. Their godfather was Chung Mon, head of the 14K, who officially did little more than owning a Chinese restaurant, a gambling house and a travel agency, but behind the scenes he controlled the whole Chinese trafficking in heroin via Amsterdam. On March 3, 1975 he was killed by a hit team of the rival triad Wo Lee Kwan, and thousands of Chinese from all over Europe attended his funeral. The reason of this deadly conflict between the 14K and Wo Lee Kwan was that the Wo Lee Kwan also wanted to open a restaurant and a gambling house in Chinatown, and Chung Mon wanted to avoid this by threatening them that he would cut them off from the lines of heroin from Hong Kong. Chung Mon’s liquidation was followed by a series of fights and shootings, which indicated that the power struggle was not over yet. Chung Mon’s successor, Yuen Muk Chang, was also liquidated in this power struggle, by Wo Lee Kwan hitmen.  

The triads fought each other to the death. After these and several other killings, the gambling palaces were closed and some illegal Chinese were expelled.  

The vacuum created by the police actions in the heroin trade, was very quickly filled by heroin dealers of different nationalities, most of them Turkish, Moroccan, and Dutch. In August 1976, two Dutch guys from Amsterdam were caught in Bangkok with 138 kilograms of heroin.  

An international market of an extremely addictive drug called heroin was created, and the stream of supply and demand was unstoppable.

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