VU alumnus Christian Flokstra, a lawyer for notorious criminals, is involved in the Marengo trial and recently won a podcast award for Napleiten.
Christian Flokstra hurriedly enters the Amsterdam office of Ficq & Partners Advocaten for our appointment to look back on 2023. His phone is buzzing non-stop. „Just a second,” he says, picking up his phone. „Flokstra here. Can I call you back later? Or is it urgent, urgent, urgent?”
„What kind of year have I had?” he sighs. “I’m still in the middle of it.”
„See, this whole Marengo trial that’s been going on for years with all its subsequent turmoil, has kept me quite occupied. Derk Wiersum was shot dead. Peter de Vries was shot dead. The crown witness's brother was shot dead. Beyond pleading in the case for my own client, one of the alleged members of Ridouan T.’s organization, the whole aftermath has really gotten to me.”
„I’m mainly interested in how it got this far and who is really responsible. Why did it go so wrong? Both at the political level and at the top of the Public Prosecution Service.”
In an earlier interview, I read that you are called ‘the crown prince of the underworld’s favourite law firm’. What do you think of that?
„Oh yes, that’s also true. Before I joined this firm, it already had a reputation for representing tough guys. The Hells Angels, the Dutch underworld, Dino Soerel. We were called ‘The Liquidation Firm’, which then became a kind of honorific title."
„It’s just not like it used to be anymore. Not that a liquidation was ever nice. Not at all. But it was different. The position of the lawyer was clearer. Nowadays, as a lawyer in these kinds of cases, you are much more identified with the suspect. And in that light, I'm not so happy with that nickname."
What do you mean exactly?
„You see a trend where lawyers of suspects in such cases are viewed with a certain mistrust. And I sort of understand it, given what happened with Youssef Taghi, or the suspicions against Inez Weski, or the arrest of Yehudi Moszkowicz in Belgium. And if there are bad apples, they should be removed. Only, it’s now tipping into a stance towards lawyers in these kinds of trials that worries me. That’s about visual surveillance during my visits with clients in the EBI (Extra Secure Prison, ed.), but also about my office colleagues being followed in Dubai. That we are being wiretapped. That I was accused of passing messages to a crown witness. It’s damn getting out of hand."
„You just see that the police and the Public Prosecution Service are increasingly pushing the boundaries. Look at undercover operations that get out of hand, where crazy things happen."
„The understanding must return that it makes no sense to approach the lawyer as a suspect. Because we can only function together when the judge, the prosecutor, and the lawyer are somewhat in the same boat, despite our different positions."
You say you think a lot about these issues. Do you have tentative conclusions?
„It’s important to realise that the criminal circuit has become much harsher in recent years. The Dino Soerels and Holleeders of the past didn’t earn nearly as much money as these guys do now. They are mostly guys with a different cultural background. They come from closed Moroccan or Antillean communities in and around the big cities like Amsterdam or Utrecht. Where everyone knows each other. Where families know each other. Where there’s huge loyalty to each other, but also huge fear among each other. And where talking to the police is snitching. And among them are ruthless types, with a lot of money, a lot of means, and a well-functioning organisational structure."
„The Dutch government responds to this hardening by cracking down even harder. By also starting to use means that are not quite right, such as illegally wiretapping or shadowing lawyers. You just see that the police and the Public Prosecution Service are increasingly pushing the boundaries. Look at undercover operations that get out of hand, where crazy things happen. This is only possible because the police and the Public Prosecution Service know there are no consequences. So, they push the boundaries and then they cross the boundaries. This is partly because the Supreme Court has not been punishing it for years. The result is that we are in a vicious circle of hardening."
„He wondered if I was a bit frustrated. Then I think: me frustrated? Maybe you all are a bit dozy."
„I also think that most Dutch politicians aren’t really interested in whether what they do helps. Take Dilan Yesilgöz, our Minister of Security and Justice, who has no study or experience on this subject. With empty phrases, she loudly proclaims that they are doing everything they can from the Public Prosecution Service and the police to combat drug trafficking. But what are they really doing? Besides printing posters that discourage drug use. She’s mainly concerned with showing that she’s doing something. But in the meantime, it’s only getting worse."
You are quite outspoken when it comes to politics, government, science, and what not.
„I recently went to have a bite to eat with a friend, also a lawyer and partner at a large firm. We hadn’t seen each other in a while and he said to me: ‘I notice you’re so angry all the time’. He had seen me go off on Dilan Yesilgöz and wondered if I was a bit frustrated. Then I think: me frustrated? Maybe you all are a bit dozy."
„You know, that’s also my criticism of my own generation and people from science. You see, apart from the usual suspects, so few people stand up and say: this is really how it is. Science is the basis for all decisions that a society must make. If a significant part of the population says: science is an opinion, well then I find that a first-class alarm bell. Then science should take a position once in a while."
„You can write another piece in some trade journal that no one reads, except your fellow scientists."
„You can write another piece in some trade journal that no one reads, except your fellow scientists. but I think: open your mouth. Learn to put a strong story together in ten minutes and sit down at a talk show."
Have you always been so passionate?
„I realised early on that you have to be on top of power. Whether it’s media power or political power. My father encouraged me to read newspapers and watch the news with him from a young age. I was a latecomer, my father was much older and so came from a completely different generation. We often disagreed because of that. It sometimes got quite heated during dinner. My mother went crazy with us. She sat next to us crying or walked away from the table. It was all cleared up between my father and me after five minutes. I mostly got energy from it. That’s why I like the profession of lawyer so much: you’re always in debate."
Did you always know you wanted to become a lawyer?
„From a young age, I found crime interesting. Peter R. de Vries, the Putten murder cases. Around the corner from my parents' house, Sam Klepper was murdered. And later, around the corner from my student house, Willem Endstra. That did pique my interest. The first few years I didn’t take my law studies very seriously. I barely made it. Only when I could do criminal law did I become passionate about law."
That passion seems far from extinguished.
„I think the new generation should also get a little angrier. And I don’t mean angrier in the sense of: all joining Extinction Rebellion, organising sit-ins, and occupying the A12. No, take the fucking power. Go do it instead of just protesting."
„I’m not suitable for politics. I find it more fun to stir things up a bit in the background."
„Then you might think now: what are you doing then Christian? I try to make podcasts about politics, government, and the media and what could be improved there. If I can contribute to something, I’d love to do it. No, I’m not suitable for politics. I find it more fun to stir things up a bit in the background."
„So, I feel a lot better than before the interview. Thank you. It was nice to let off steam.” His phone is now buzzing and beeping on the table again. “Flokstra here. Okay, can you write down her number, then I'll call her back soon.”