Dutch cafe was a front for international drug smuggling operations

Michael Moogan was arrested last month in Dubai after eight years on the run

Michael Paul Moogan was arrested by Dubai Police. Dubai Police
Michael Paul Moogan was arrested by Dubai Police. Dubai Police

Despite the sign over the door and the tables on the pavement, there was no welcome smile or frothy cappuccino for passers-by at Cafe de Ketel in Rotterdam.

Despite its innocent appearance, the cafe's doors opened on to an operations centre for global drug deals - if you were able to get through them.

Customers were by invitation only and they had to negotiate the security cameras and the buzzer system before they were allowed inside.

Police believe that traffickers from South America, the UK, Netherlands and Spain met there to discuss their plans until it was raided by police in 2013.

One of them, British police claim, was Michael Moogan, arrested in Dubai last month after eight years on the run. Moogan and another Briton, Robert Gerrard, were suspected of using the cafe to orchestrate major drug importations into Britain.

Gerrard travelled to Rotterdam to meet smugglers to arrange moving £60 million worth of cocaine into the UK.

After months of surveillance, police launched coordinated raids with UK officers targeting properties used by the two Britons. But for years there was no sign of them.

Police believe that traffickers from South America, the UK, Netherlands and Spain met at Cafe de Ketel in the Netherlands to discuss their plans until it was raided by police in 2013. EPA
Police believe that traffickers from South America, the UK, Netherlands and Spain met at Cafe de Ketel in the Netherlands to discuss their plans until it was raided by police in 2013. EPA

Three years after Gerrard disappeared, he handed himself in blaming the overwhelming pressure of life on the run. He was jailed for 14 years in 2017.

Another Briton, Robert Hamilton, acted as a middle-man between Dutch and British criminals. He was secretly filmed by police over several months laying the groundwork for multi-million-pound deals.

They even discussed branding the shipment by stamping an image of a champagne glass or an Audi car on each package.

Hamilton was the only Briton arrested during the raids in 2013. His trial in 2014 heard that he had a collection of luxury watches at his home along with a signed photo of former Manchester United player Eric Cantona. Hamilton, now 71, was jailed for eight years.

Moogan, 35, who featured on lists of “Britain’s most wanted” remained on the run until he was tracked down and arrested in Dubai on April 21.

Detectives believe that he used numerous false identities to avoid capture and tried to avoid security cameras in an attempt to avoid capture.

Two criminals involved in another drugs-smuggling operation were jailed in 2015 after being filmed going into the café.

The cafe was perfectly placed in the city, home of one of the world's largest ports and trading hubs.

The cafe was said to have operated for years and run by two Turkish brothers who took commissions for making introductions between major players in the drugs world.

Secret recordings showed that Anthony Dennis and Anthony Wilson, were shipping cocaine from South America. Corrupt port officials allegedly recruited by the Turkish brothers were paid to remove the drugs.

But their plans went awry when 67.5kg of cocaine was not removed from a container at Antwerp in May 2013 and was later seized by the German authorities in Essen.

The Turkish brothers, named in Dutch media as Ugur and Ufuk C, were arrested five months later in the co-ordinated raids.

Footage posted online by Dutch police showed them using chainsaws to break into one house. The inquiry into their activities followed a tip-off about the pair who were said to be smuggling heroin from Turkey to the Netherlands.

Officers discovered a cache of weapons at the cafe along with hundreds of thousands of euros, a cash-counting machine and dozens of mobile phones. A radio scanner and jammer and high value watches were also found.

The brothers were each jailed for up to eight years, according to the Dutch blog crimesite. Other members of the gang were jailed for up to six years after Dutch police discovered handguns, semi-automatic rifles and a cocaine press in other parts of Rotterdam.

Michael Moogan is being flown back to the UK to face trial.

Updated: May 16, 2021 10:23 AM

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