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Prison terms of up to six years for largest cocaine washing operation on record

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Ten men were convicted on Thursday for their role in the largest cocaine washing operation ever discovered in the Netherlands. They were sentenced by the court in Amsterdam to prison terms ranging from 18 months to six years. Their lab was located in the village of Nijeveen, Drenthe, in 2020.

These prison terms are less than was previously recommended. Last December, the Public Prosecution Service (OM) asked for prison terms ranging from four to 12 years.

The gang leader was 53-year-old Oguz H., from Tilburg. The OM suggested he receive 12 years behind bars, but he disappeared shortly after the police raided the lab. He has since gone missing and was convicted in absentia. 

Alejandro C., a 42-year-old from Colombia, was previously sentenced in the U.S. to 32 years in prison for cocaine smuggling. He was sentenced in Amsterdam on Thursday to four years in prison. Two of the other suspects were given five years in prison, three received four years, and the remaining three received three years, 30 months, and 18 months behind bars.

The lab, which was shut down in August 2020, was described after the discovery as the largest cocaine washing plant ever found in the Netherlands. It had such an enormous capacity that it could produce a yield valued at over 2.1 billion euros in just one year. In the short time it was running it would have been making daily revenue of three to five million euros, according to the OM. 

Police found tens of thousands of liters of chemicals and about 100 kilograms of cocaine paste in the lab. During a raid in Apeldoorn, officers came across another 120,000 kilograms of coal, which contained 22,000 kilograms of cocaine.

The sentences were less severe than previously demanded by the OM, partly because the court based its judgment on the precedent set during the sentencing of another group of Colombians convicted in the scheme last year. The group was working in the lab during the police raid of the converted horse riding school. The facility was owned by Jan B., who had rented out part of his complex to the cocaine gang.

B. was sentenced to three years in prison last summer and the Colombian suspects received 30 months. The court said it had looked at judgments made in similar criminal cases.

The suspects convicted on Thursday largely invoked their right to remain silent during the trial. The men first came to police attention after the hacking of chat service, Encrochat, which allowed police to read messages that the criminals had sent to each other. A large body of evidence against the suspects came from these decrypted messages. 

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