Amsterdam closes souvenir shops over organised crime links


A number of the 250 souvenir shops in central Amsterdam are caught up with money laundering and the drugs trade and three shops in the Damstraat were closed last week because of their links to crime, the Parool reported at the weekend. 

The three shops that were closed were all owned by the same Afghan businessman, who previously lost four other shops after the city council took action, the paper said.

All seven were closed earlier for six months by order of the mayor for selling “hennep joints”. One of the shops was found to have 2,000 marijuana cigarettes on the premises. 

The paper bases its claim on a wide-ranging investigation by the police, tax office and public prosecution department into the souvenir sector. That investigation was spurred by a smaller probe in 2020 which resulted in six city centre tourist stores being closed down.  

In 2023 the council introduced a licencing system for all retail outlets in the Damstraat and its continuation on the edge of the red light district. People applying for a new licence now have to prove that the shop is being financed legally and its owners have to pass strict police checks to make sure they don’t have links with organised crime. 

Amsterdam’s mayor Femke Halsema said in an OpEd in the Guardian on Friday that the Netherlands risked becoming a “narco-state”. “Spurred on by globalisation and the international criminalisation of drugs, the illegal drugs trade has become more lucrative, professional and ruthlessly violent,” the mayor told the paper.  

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