World News

Life in prison for Dutch crime boss Holleeder, known from Heineken kidnapping

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch crime boss Willem Holleeder was convicted by an Amsterdam court on Thursday for his involvement in five gangland killings, including of his own brother-in-law, and sentenced to life in prison.

Holleeder, 61, nicknamed “The Nose” in Dutch media, is best known for his earlier conviction in the 1983 kidnapping of beer tycoon Freddy Heineken. His current trial over the spate of killings in the 2000s has been running since 2015, amid huge public interest.

“You’re guilty of inciting 5 murders...liquidations, committed to order by an organized gang, for large amounts of money,” said judge Frank Wieland, reading the verdict, adding that Holleeder had been the “kingpin” in a criminal organization.

“You think you have the right to decide matters of life and death with indifference and you have no conscience.”

Families of victims cheered and applauded in the courtroom.

Lawyers for Holleeder said they will appeal. They argue that other criminals have tried to frame him for various crimes because of his poor reputation.

Prosecution witnesses in the case included Holleeder’s sister Astrid and his other sister Sonja, whose husband Cor van Hout - one of Holleeder’s co-conspirators in the Heineken kidnapping - was slain in 2003.

Holleeder was convicted on Thursday in that killing.

Wieland said Holleeder had called his sister the night of the murder to demand gold held by Van Hout, which unbeknownst to her would be used to pay off her husband’s killers.

A pivotal moment in the trial came when the court heard secret recordings made by the sisters in which Willem Holleeder threatened to kill Sonja and her children.

Judges said that all those who had testified against Holleeder had done so while fearing justifiably for their lives.

Real estate magnate Willem Endstra was killed in 2004 after it emerged he had been giving police information about Holleeder. Holleeder was convicted in 2007 of extorting Endstra, and sentenced to 9 years.

“I didn’t give the order for liquidations and there’s no evidence I did,” Holleeder said in a written statement given to the media after the ruling.

Judge Wieland said that due to Holleeder’s many contradictory statements about his crimes, his words cannot be relied upon.

In the Heineken kidnapping, Freddy Heineken was abducted and held in chains for three weeks until a ransom of 35 million guilders ($17 million) was paid, 8 million of which was never recovered.

Holleeder was caught in France and eventually convicted and imprisoned in the Netherlands until 1992. Until his 2006 arrest in the extortion case, he invested in brothels and sex clubs.

Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Toby Chopra and Frances Kerry