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Judicial mix-up allows Mocro Maffia capo to go to ground in Spain after posting bail

Karim Bouyakhrichan, the ‘most wanted and dangerous criminal in the Netherlands,’ was released by order of the Provincial Court of Málaga without the High Court activating an arrest warrant to extradite him

Karim Bouyakhrichan after his arrest in Spain in an image provided by the National Police.
Karim Bouyakhrichan after his arrest in Spain in an image provided by the National Police.cnp
Óscar López-Fonseca

What was initially a great success for the Spanish police has turned into a fiasco due to a judicial mix-up. Karim Bouyakhrichan, alias Taxi, considered one of the top capos of the Mocro Maffia and, therefore, one of the most wanted criminals in the Netherlands, is unaccounted for after he was released from prison following an apparent discrepancy between the Provincial Court of Málaga — which ordered his release less than a month and a half after he was imprisoned for money laundering in Spain — and the Spanish High Court, which was processing an extradition request for Bouyakhrichan from the Dutch authorities, as reported by Spanish on Cadena SER and confirmed to EL PAÍS by police and judicial sources. The Spanish High Court has already issued a new arrest warrant for the alleged mobster.

When Bouyakhrichan was arrested in Marbella on January 9, Spain’s Ministry of the Interior stressed that he was the “most wanted and dangerous criminal in the Netherlands.” In fact, the Dutch judicial system accuses him of being one of the ringleaders of a clan of the Mocro Maffia, a Dutch-Moroccan criminal network based in the Netherlands, which has defied the state with threats to Princess Amalia of Orange — who was forced to reside in Spain for a year for security reasons — and Prime Minister Mark Rutte. The Mocro Maffia is said to be responsible for smuggling huge quantities of cocaine into Europe through the Dutch ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam, but has also been linked to murders, extortion, and kidnappings.

Bouyakhrichan was arrested in January by the Spanish National Police’s Special Response Group for Organized Crime (GRECO), who had been on his trail for years, near the Marbella municipal court building. Bouyakhrichan stated he had intended to surrender voluntarily. Six other people were arrested in the operation, among them several alleged Spanish frontmen, over their alleged involvement in the laundering of over $6 million from drug trafficking on the Costa del Sol. The Ministry of the Interior reported that 172 properties had been embargoed, including several mansions in Marbella valued at over $50 million, and 178 bank accounts containing over $3 million had been frozen. Bouyakhrichan’s relationship with Spain dates back a long time: his brother Samir was shot dead outside a bar in Benahavís (Málaga) in August 2014 in an alleged settling of scores between Mocro Maffia clans.

After his arrest, at the request of the Spanish Public Prosecutor’s Office, Bouyakhrichan was jailed by a Marbella court as he posed a flight risk. In the meantime, the Netherlands’ judicial system initiated extradition proceedings for a drug trafficking crime with the issuance of a European arrest warrant (EAW), an EU mechanism set up in January 2004 to shorten the lengthy legal procedures for extraditions. This request fell to High Court Judge Ismael Moreno, who also issued his own arrest warrant for Bouyakhrichan.

However, Moreno had to rescind the order after asking the Marbella judge if he had any issue in handing over the alleged capo to the Dutch authorities. The latter answered yes, because the detainee was being investigated in Spain for money laundering, drug trafficking, and belonging to a criminal organization, and as such his extradition was not appropriate until he was tried on those charges. According to High Court sources, this response led Moreno to cancel the warrant so as not to breach the legal deadline of 60 days to comply with the EAW.

Meanwhile, Bouyakhrichan’s lawyers appealed his imprisonment before the Provincial Court of Málaga, stating there was no flight risk as he had roots in Spain, where he claimed to live with his partner. The Public Prosecutor’s Office opposed his release on the grounds that there were no such roots — his partner had admitted she lived in Dubai and only visited Marbella sporadically — and Bouyakhrichan had the economic means to evade justice as well as Moroccan nationality, to where he could try to flee as Morocco does not hand over its citizens to other countries. The Public Prosecutor’s Office emphasized in its brief that the Dutch judicial authorities had requested his extradition, which was being processed in the High Court. The document expressly demanded that Bouyakhrichan be held in prison in order to be able to comply with the extradition request.

Despite this, on February 22, the Provincial Court of Málaga accepted the appeal lodged by Bouyakhrichan’s defense and ordered his release. In their ruling, to which EL PAÍS has had access, the three magistrates recognized that there was a possibility the alleged Mocro Maffia kingpin would flee if he left prison but they considered that other “less burdensome” measures were sufficient to prevent this, such as the imposition of a €50,000 ($53,542) bail and the obligation to surrender his passport and appear in court every 15 days. At no point in the ruling was the existence of the EAW mentioned. Sources at the Andalusia High Court of Justice assure that his release was immediately communicated to the High Court.

After immediately posting bail, Bouyakhrichan left prison. The following day he handed over his passport to the court, and since then he has complied with the other precautionary measures imposed. It is recorded that he reported to different courts in the province of Malaga every two weeks, on the 1st and 15th of the month, in accordance with the court order, up to April 1, according to the same sources. There is still no record of whether he did so on April 15.

Bouyakhrichan’s release led the Dutch authorities to send an extension of the extradition order to the High Court, in which they emphasized the urgency of handing over the alleged Mocro Maffia boss due to the seriousness of the charges against him in the Netherlands. Judge Moreno, aware that Bouyakhrichan had been released, reactivated the arrest warrant on March 15 and issued a summons. However, Bouyakhrichan did not show up. Since then, his whereabouts are unknown. According to sources at the Andalusia High Court of Justice, the Marbella court has not yet issued a similar measure, pending formal confirmation that he did not comply with the precautionary measures and report to the court on April 15.

The news about Bouyakhrichan’s possible escape has caused enormous discomfort both in the Spanish security forces — who pointed out that his capture was extremely complex and he had evaded agents by fleeing on a motorbike on the day before his arrest — and for the Dutch authorities, who were already angered by the decision of the Provincial Court of Málaga to release him on bail. The Dutch liaison judge in Spain has met in person with Judge Moreno to express his concern over both facts.

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