A member of a crime gang has been convicted of the assassination of a Dutch underworld figure outside a sex club.
Christopher Hughes lured Martin Kok, 49, to his death before he was blasted eight times by a gunman in Laren, The Netherlands on December 8, 2016.
The 33-year-old was a high ranking member of the crime clan which had worldwide connections including with Colombian drug cartels and the Italian mafia.
On the instructions of the gang, Hughes met Kok at an Amsterdam hotel then the Boccaccio sex club and alerted others to where he was.
As the pair later left, and Hughes patted a cat outside, double murderer Kok was gunned down as a “favour” for seemingly crossing Moroccan-based gangsters.
Hughes was quizzed by Dutch police the next day before being allowed to leave.
He remained at large in Europe as the international probe into the brothel shooting continued.
It was his apparent confession to a fellow gang member which lead to his downfall.
Hughes was caught at a hotel in Turin in Italy in January 2020 and hauled back to Scotland on a European Arrest Warrant.
He now faces a life sentence after being convicted at the High Court in Glasgow of Kok’s murder and involvement in serious organised crime between July 2013 and January 2020.
The killing – despite happening abroad – was investigated as part of the huge Police Scotland probe Operation Escalade, which has already seen a string of gang members jailed for a total of more than 100 years.
The gang has been described as the “most sophisticated” encountered by the authorities
They are said to be at the “top of the chain” for drug trafficking in the UK while also having an “unprecedented” arsenal of firearms at their disposal.
Hughes was a trusted member of the gang with jurors shown a photo of him smiling with the two crime bosses heading the crew.
They cannot be identified for legal reasons.
He was listed by HMRC as seemingly “unemployed” – but £40,000-a-week “wages” earned him a luxury lifestyle in The Algarve.
The fellow gang member explained to jurors in evidence that he was told to set a meeting up in an Amsterdam hotel between Hughes and Kok.
Kok – a convicted murderer himself – was latterly a crime writer who had set up a website exposing criminals in his homeland.
The informer told jurors he believed the meeting was to discuss advertising for the firm’s encrypted phone company MPC – funded with £1m of dirty money – on Kok’s new crime TV show.
The killing was originally due to happen outside the Citizen M Hotel in Amsterdam.
But, Hughes, originally from Glasgow, later told the informant that the gun had “jammed” during a “play by play” of events at his flat in Antwerp 11 months later.
The murder then did happen later that night as Hughes paid for Kok’s evening at the sex club and supplied him with cocaine.
The fellow gang member stated that he was speaking to his crime boss on the night of the incident.
The informant said: “He [The boss] had been on about someone waiting for Martin Kok and Christopher Hughes was to hold back.
“Martin left just ahead of Chris and he made a comment about a cat appearing at the club and that he stepped back to pet it.”
Prosecutor Liam Ewing QC asked what the significance of petting the cat was.
The witness replied: “Martin was going to his car first so there was no mistake of anyone being caught in the crossfire.”
Jurors watched CCTV of Hughes moments after the shooting walking away from the scene texting on a mobile phone.
Mr Ewing also asked the informer if Hughes understood something was to happen to Kok that night.
He replied: “I remember a comment being made about putting him [Kok] on a plate for the Roccies.”
The witness claimed he had a meeting with his boss a month after the murder.
He said: “I was told it was an arrangement because the lad had access to Martin with a group called the Roccies, a Moroccan crime group, who are all over but more prominent in Amsterdam.”
Hughes’ boss then organised for him to be picked up as he hid in bushes while emergency crews arrived at the scene.
Hughes told police the next day that he was involved in “tech support” with the phone company – but did not want to give names of who was involved.
He further stated that he binned his encrypted phone as it had smashed and got rid of his clothes.
Jurors also heard that Hughes was spied by police in industrial units in Cambuslang and East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire as well as Chapelhall, North Lanarkshire.
Mr Ewing told the jury in his closing speech: “Recovered from a machine inside one of the lock up garages was £700,000.
“The landlord said that it cost them £13,000 in cash for its use.
“There was anti-surveilance equipment valued at £40,000 which can only be found in the hands of government organisations but this group have it in a lock up in Chapelhall.”
Hughes shook his head after he was convicted.
Sentencing was deferred pending background reports until next month by judge Lady Scott who continued Hughes’ remand in custody meantime.
Reacting to the guilty verdict Police Scotland said they welcomed the news of his conviction.
Detective chief superintendent Stuart Houston, head of Police Scotland’s Organised Crime Unit, said: “It has been well-documented that Hughes is a dangerous individual with a long association with organised crime in Scotland and beyond.
“He has wreaked havoc in our communities by trading illegal drugs to our communities and being involved in the importation of firearms which undoubtedly would have been used to harm or kill others.
“His conviction today, is testament to Police Scotland’s commitment to relentlessly pursuing criminals who think they are untouchable or above the law. This isn’t the case and we will continue to work closely, and in partnership, with law enforcement colleagues in this country and abroad to bring those involved in violence and organised criminality to justice.
“I am grateful to colleagues in The Netherlands and Italy for their assistance in locating and arresting Hughes, allowing us to bring him before the courts to face the consequences of his nefarious actions. I also want to pay tribute to the team of dedicated Police Scotland officers whose professionalism and tireless efforts have culminated in this positive conclusion today.
“Serious Organised Crime has no place in a civilised society and I want to reassure people in all our communities that Police Scotland will continue to disrupt anyone involved in this type of activity.
“This is in line with our commitment to achieving the aim and vision of Scotland’s Serious Organised Crime Strategy Taskforce. Working with the partners of the Serious Organised Crime Taskforce we will continue our fight against those involved in serious and organised crime to keep our communities safe.”