IN DUTCH JUNE Police opened a shipping container at a farm and found it had been converted into a torture chamber, with walls covered with soundproofing and a dentist’s chair fitted with arms and legs, as well as handcuffs, hacksaws and pliers. They were warned by an informant inside Caloh Wagoh, a Dutch motorcycle gang whose leader, “Keylow”, had been arrested and charged with directing a murder plan for pay. Prosecutors say a Moroccan-Dutch drug king hired Caloh Wagoh to perform 11 hits, five of which were executed. Keylow denies any involvement. When asked by police why hundreds of text messages on his cell phone referred to successful jobs, he said he was making a movie on the subject.
European drug trafficking has long links with banned motorcycle gangs. (These are often referred to as “one percent,” an ironic reference to an apocryphal statement that 99% of the motorcycle club members are law-abiding citizens.) The Hells Angels and Bandidos gangs, formed in America, started opening chapters in Europe in the 1970s. They soon controlled much of the drug trade in cities like Copenhagen and Malmö.
In the so-called Great Nordic Motorcycle War of the 1990s, these gangs and their allies clashed with assault rifles, grenades and anti-tank weapons stolen from military bases. From the late 2000s, one percent of Northern Europe came into conflict with a new rival: ethnically immigrated street gangs. In Copenhagen, the Hells Angels and Bandidos ceded their territory to gangs like Brothas and Loyal to Familia.
In the Netherlands, the government tried to ban the Hells Angels and Bandidos as criminal organizations. But they were already facing competition from new biker gangs with a multicultural flavor, such as Satudarah, which started out in the Moluccan community, and No Surrender, a predominantly Moroccan-Dutch crew. Caloh Wagoh, which has many Surinamese-Dutch members, is a merger of members of a motorcycle gang called Trailer Trash and a Dutch branch of the Crips, a gang from Los Angeles.
Percent are involved in the drug trade in the Netherlands, although they do not dominate it. That honor, police say, goes to Ridouan Tagih, the man accused of hiring Keylow. After Panorama, a Dutch men’s magazine, published articles on Caloh Wagoh in 2018 when his office was hit by an anti-tank missile.
This article appeared in the Europe section of the print edition under the title “Sleazy riders”