Police followed lawyers in Ridouan Taghi manhunt; Prosecutor denies confidentiality breach

While searching for suspected top criminal Ridouan Taghi, the police secretly followed lawyers Nico Meijering an Leon van Kleef at Schiphol airport and in Dubai, newspaper AD reported based on its own research. The Public Prosecution Service (OM) confirmed the report as accurate on Friday morning, and denied accusations that they were breaching attorney-client privilege by surveilling the attorneys.

While Taghi was in hiding in Dubai in June 2019, the police received a tip that lawyer Meijering was heading to the country to meet him. The police made the unusual decision to follow him. While observing Meijering at Schiphol, the police saw him and colleague Van Kleef getting on a plane to Dubai on June 19.

“Identification of [Taghi’s] whereabouts and his arrest were of the highest priority, given the very serious allegations against him,” the OM said. “He is being held responsible for ordering a large number of assassinations.”

In Dubai the lawyers were followed by the local authorities, which the OM said was at its request. Dubai investigators reported to the Netherlands that the lawyers were not meeting Taghi, but their own client Khalid J. The operation was unsuccessful.

The Dutch attorneys were only notified by the OM that they had been followed after the newspaper began questioning the prosecution service about the matter. The two lawyers told AD they are outraged that the police followed them. “It is yet another symptom of a severely overstrained rule of law in which lawyers have to function,” Meijering said to the newspaper.

The police following lawyers puts them in danger, he said. “After all, any resulting arrest could easily be misinterpreted.” The lawyer’s client may think the lawyer gave him up to the police, for example.

The Dutch Bar Association and the association for criminal defense lawyers NVSA also called the operation worrisome. “It can seriously endanger the safety of lawyers,” Petra van Kampen of the Bar Association said. NVSA board member Geertjan van Oosten added: “A lawyer should never be observed in the performance of his work because otherwise he cannot do his work freely.” The NVSA demands full disclosure from the Board of Attorneys General and “a guarantee that this will never happen again.”

The Public Prosecution Service (OM) told the newspaper that the operation to follow Meijering and Van Kleef was not submitted to the Board of Attorneys General before hand. According to the OM, this was not necessary, because Meijering and Van Kleef did not represent Taghi. “Therefore, observing them would not violate a lawyer’s confidential relationship with his client.” According to the OM, the hunt for Taghi had top priority, because of concerns that he would commit more murders.