the IRT Affair



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Dutch Police go deep and smuggle drugs into the Netherlands

the IRT Affair


BY SANDER DE JONG, SPECIAL DUTCH CORRESPONDENT





Holland is a small, densely populated country with an increasingly heterogenous population. We have learned to be both diligent and tolerant, creating room for individual expression in such a way that nobody feels threatened by it. This democracy of mutual compromise functioned well within a stable political landscape, but two years ago a socialist/liberal coalition managed to exclude all conservative powers from government for the first time in over sixty years.Unfortunately, both the public and the political debate on issues formerly hampered by traditional religious dogmatism and conservative party politics have been hectic and generally haphazard. Now that power is shared between left and right wing social liberals, they are suddenly scared to throw their weight
around.

INTERNATIONAL PRESSURE

Dutch drug policy is caught up in a torrent of international debate which surrounds us on all sides. Political shows of force from other European nations, especially France, are continuously disturbing what should be a solely national debate.

Germany and Belgium have recently shifted their drug policies, and in the case of some German cities and one of the federal states have moved considerably further than the Netherlands. The predominantly French and English political harassment of Dutch drug policies has always been extremely annoying, and usually only aimed at the users.

What generally happens to satisfy foreign pressure is that the Dutch justice department blows a few whistles, to show that we can take care of our own business, and then everybody goes back to their other priorities.

The security problems in this area have always been a predominantly local affair. Although the Dutch State Police patrolled most rural areas until the early eighties, the larger cities and villages have always had their own police forces, and so policies are interpreted differently all across the country.

HOLLAND’S OWN LITTLE FBI

The Dutch State Police was dismantled in the late eighties, so that the Dutch police was made up entirely of regional teams. The Inter Regional Team (IRT) was created to provide these regional police forces with a better grip on interregional crime.

As much interregional crime is related to drugs, the IRT spent most of its time making up an inventory of anything that had to do with traffickers operating on or through Dutch soil. There was plenty of work for them to do, as the Netherlands is used as a transit country by a wide array of criminal organisations. The mild penal climate coupled with a great infrastructure makes it an ideal country to earn a dishonest buck, especially with drug trafficking.

Once the state police had been entirely dismantled, the IRT began to act more aggressively, feeling that they finally had the means and the freedom to successfully inspect the murky depths of the drug trade.

They directed field operations against groups suspected of trafficking, and applied new methods of policing. One of these was the “pluk ze” device: impounding capital, real estate and luxury articles on charges of tax evasion. Holland finally had its own little FBI, with computerized systems of analysis, tapped phones, undercover agents, frontstores, the lot.

THE IRT GETS IN DEEP

Some of the teams went in so deep as to actually set up their own drug importation lines. They paid criminal agents great amounts of money, and shipped some 200 container loads of drugs into the country. Most of this was marijuana, but there was a little coke as well, and most of it was sold and put out on the market. I probably smoked some of it.

So in the Netherlands even the police are involved in the drug trade, with taxpayers money of course. They have done much to make it a booming business for their criminal companions, who were generally a little brighter and were set up so that when the tide finally came in they’d be long gone.

When the escapades of the IRT went so high that a great number of drug cases had to be dropped, the board of IRT commissioners got into a row, word got out into the press, and finally a parliamentary research group was created that actually took their work seriously.

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Minister of Justice Sorgdrager and Minister of Internal Affairs Dijkstal:
mucking up the transparency of Dutch democracy

POINTING FINGERS

The who’s to blame game has chopped off some local stool pigeons, but the complicating factor is that many of the people involved in drawing consequences are somehow involved in the scandal as well.

The suspended chief of the Haarlem Criminal Intelligence Service, J van Vondel, has been charged with criminal negligence, along with his former co-worker K Langendoen. Vondel has gone into hiding, supposedly because he has been threatened by his former contacts. His mummery and the long distance camera during the IRT hearings must not have been enough to secure his anonymity.

This is where the buck stops for now. Their direct superior, Chief of Police Straver, has retained his position, and will probably keep it until he can quietly retire into his pension in a couple of years. Straver can’t be dismissed because then his former superior would come into focus. She is Mrs Schmitz, the former mayor of Haarlem, currently the Secretary of Justice.

Mrs Schmitz’s current boss, Minister of Justice Sorgdrager, has remained relatively clean. She was Procureur Generaal (PG, the highest legal administrator in a precinct) in The Hague during the critical periods, but most of the really bad stuff took place elsewhere, in Haarlem and Rotterdam. In parliament she has had to take some hurdles, but they were mainly on the heavy golden handshake that she paid to van Randwijk, a former PG that she first worked with, then later fired as a minister.

Sordrager has also made some significant changes to the Justice Department, so right now everybody is exceedingly happy with her. She may have taken care of some incompetent PGs, but that will prove to be one more costly solution, and even though apathy is rife in this country there are still many people that feel their tax money is being wasted once again.

It’s currently Mr Dijkstal the Minister of Internal Affairs (which is in charge of the police) that has to come through. Mucking up the translucency of our democracy even more is the charade of a merry-go-round that Dijkstal has proposed as a way to professionalize the force. In this way he thinks he can get rid of a few troublemakers without kicking their shins too hard.

So the people are waiting, while the state is anticipating, debating, restating…whatever. No wonder we’re way ahead of them.
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