A member of a major Scottish crime gang was condemned to spend two-and-a-half decades behind bars, after being convicted of the “execution” of a Dutch crime writer outside a sex club in Holland.
Christopher Hughes was jailed for life at the High Court in Stirling and told by a judge that he would be ineligible for release on licence for at least 25 years.
Hughes, 33, a senior member of a crime clan which had global connections ranging from Colombian drug cartels to the Italian mafia, lured Martin Kok, 49, to his death before he was shot eight times in the head and body by a gunman in Laren, near Amsterdam, on December 8, 2016.
The killing was described by judge Lady Scott as “planned and ruthless murder”.
Hughes, of Glasgow, was also convicted of involvement in serious organised crime between July 2013 and January 2020 – possessing firearms, storing, concealing and transporting criminal money, drugs, and counter-surveillance equipment used in organised crime – and sentenced to six years to be served concurrently to the life sentence.
Kok was a convicted murderer turned crime writer, who had set up a website exposing criminals in the Netherlands.
In March, a jury heard that Hughes had met Kok at an Amsterdam hotel, then the Boccaccio sex club in Laren, 30 kilometres away, and alerted others to where he was.
As the pair later left, Hughes stopped to pat a cat before Kok was gunned down, apparently as a “favour” for Moroccan-based gangsters he was said to have crossed.
Hughes, who appeared before the court by video link from Low Moss Prison, sat unmoving before appearing to smile slightly as he was told by Lady Scott that his part in the murder was made all the more serious in that it had followed an attempt on Mr Kok’s life earlier the same day.
She said: “You met up with Mr Kok at the Citizen M Hotel in Amsterdam, you left the hotel with him, and when you were on the street a man approached from behind in an attempt to shoot Mr Kok in the head. But nothing happened and he just ran off.
“After this, you stayed with Mr Kok throughout the day and in the evening you went with him to the Boccaccio Club.
“Afterwards, he went to his car.
“You held back and a man suddenly appeared and shot Mr Kok eight times in his head and body.
“It was a planned and ruthless murder.
“It was an execution.
“That you were determined to do this is illustrated by your persistence in pursuing this plan even after the earlier attempt at murder failed.”
Hughes was quizzed by Dutch police the day after the murder before being allowed to leave.
He remained at large in Europe as an international probe into the shooting continued.
An apparent confession to a fellow gang member-turned-informer led to his downfall.
He was arrested at a hotel in Turin, Italy in January 2020 and flown back to Scotland on a European Arrest Warrant.
Donald Findlay, QC, defending, said Hughes “respected but could not accept” the jury’s unanimous verdict.
He said: “There will be no words of contrition on the part of Mr Hughes, but there is a deep expression of regret for the part he undoubtedly played in leading to the death.
“His position of course is that he was duped into that.”
Members of Hughes’ family, who were on the public benches, declined to comment after the sentencing.
Despite the fact the murder happened in the Netherlands, it was investigated as part of Police Scotland’s Operation Escalade.
To date it has resulted in gang members being jailed for a combined total of more than 100 years.
The heavily-armed group were involved in a global criminal enterprise that generated more than £100m a year.
They invested in state-of-the-art surveillance equipment in a bid to establish if their network had been compromised by the authorities.
The court heard Hughes was a trusted member and jurors were shown a photo of him smiling with the two wanted men who run the operation.
They cannot be identified for legal reasons.
Hughes was listed by HMRC as “unemployed” but “wages” of POUNDS 40,000-a-week earned him a luxury lifestyle in the Algarve.
The informer said in evidence that he was told to set a meeting up in an Amsterdam hotel between Hughes and Kok.
He told the court he believed the meeting was to discuss advertising for the firm’s encrypted phone company MPC, which was funded with £1m of dirty money, on Kok’s new crime TV show.
The murder was originally due to happen outside the Citizen M Hotel.
But Hughes told the informant that the gun had jammed.
On the night of the murder, the court heard, Hughes paid for Kok’s evening at the sex club and supplied him with cocaine.
The informant stated that he was speaking to his crime boss on the night of the incident.
He 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 [Chris] made a comment about a cat appearing at the club and that he stepped back to pet it.”
The witness said that meant Hughes could hang back while Kok went to his car so there was no danger of being caught in the crossfire.
CCTV showed Hughes moments after the shooting walking away, texting on an encrypted phone.
Hughes’ boss then organised for him to be picked up as he hid in bushes while paramedics arrived at the scene.
The informer said he remembered a comment being made about putting Kok “on a plate for the Roccies” – a Moroccan crime group prominent in Amsterdam.
Hughes was later put under surveillance by police and watched as he visited industrial units in Cambuslang and East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire as well as Chapelhall, North Lanarkshire.
Some £700,000 was recovered inside one of the lock ups.
The lock-up, in Chapelhall, also contained £40,000 of anti-surveillance equipment normally only found in the hands of government organisations.
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