FOR 49-year-old Martin Kok life was looking up.

His career as an expert on organised crime was taking off with a new TV show in the pipeline.

He was frequently asked to comment on the activities of the criminal underworld whether it be in print or on television.

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That was not surprising, given he had spent most of his life rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest names in Dutch crime, particularly in the capital Amsterdam where he lived.

Kok – who had served 15 years in prison for killing two men – started a crime blog when he was released in 2015.

He called it Vlinderscrime, after the Dutch word for butterflies.

It quickly became one of the best read sites in Holland, detailing the activities of criminals in his homeland.

He also made money by allowing companies to advertise their products online.

Kok said at the time: “I thought it would be fun to write about crime – I knew a lot about it.”

He was not joking.

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In the summer of 1988, at the age of 21, Kok shot a rival who had undercut his drug business.

He then had a fight with another man and smashed him in the head with a bar stool.

The victim died a day later, and Kok went to prison for five years.

When Kok was released, he murdered the boyfriend of a former girlfriend and was given a further 14 years in prison.

He also served sentences for extortion and made money in jail supplying prostitutes to inmates.

His Vlinderscrime website had legions of fans, but the revelations also made him many enemies.

He used his blog to make fun of major figures in the criminal underworld, and to name and shame them.

He had angered one powerful Moroccan crime syndicate based in Amsterdam by revealing details of their operations in the Netherlands. As a result, it had vowed revenge.

In 2015, two gunmen opened fire on his car when he was asleep in his house.

The following year, a bomb was planted under his vehicle, which was only discovered seconds before he was about to get inside.

Kok said at the time: “I’m on so many lists, all I have to do is bow my head and they’ll kill each other.”

However, it was going to be third time lucky for the Moroccans.

This time they asked a crime gang run by two brothers from Glasgow to arrange the hit as a favour.

A senior member of the gang, Christopher Hughes, then 27, ran a firm in the city selling encrypted mobile phones.

The handsets were popular with organised crime groups as they could send and receive untraceable phone calls and texts.

It was also a lucrative trade with the firm raking in £6 million for 5000 handsets sold to criminals at £1200 each.

Customers also had to renew their contract every six months for £700.

Hughes, from Cambuslang, told Kok his firm wanted to advertise the phones on Vlinderscrime and a new TV show he was due to host.

He met Kok on Friday, December 8, 2016, in the CitizenM hotel in the heart of Amsterdam to discuss the £13,000 deal.

The plan was that a man hired by the brothers would shoot Kok as he left the hotel at the end of the meeting.

CCTV would later show the mystery man running up behind Kok and pointing a pistol at his head in the street outside.

The gunman then ran off after the weapon appeared to jam.

Kok walked away unaware he’d just survived an attempt on his life.

Hughes then had to think of a second plan.

This time he arranged to take Kok later that night to the Boccaccio sex club in Laren about 25 miles away.

There he plied Kok with cocaine and paid for the women working there to entertain him.

Both men left the club at around 11.25pm on foot.

CCTV footage shows the killer emerging from bushes.

Kok was shot eight times as he got into his Volkswagen Polo in the club car park.

At this point Hughes bent over to stroke a cat, so as not to get caught in the crossfire.

CCTV also showed Hughes calmly walking away from the murder scene texting on a mobile phone – to be picked up in a car a short time later.

Dutch police questioned Hughes the next day about the killing but with no evidence to link him directly with the shooting, he was released without charge.

He had told detectives he was there to do a business deal with Kok – over the advertising – and had no idea who would want to kill him.

Meanwhile at Kok’s funeral a few weeks later, mourners had to walk through metal detection gates amid fears of further violence.

His coffin was carried by four young women and champagne was served during the service.

On his return to Glasgow, Hughes was put under surveillance but again with no evidence linking him directly to Kok’s murder he remained free to go where he chose.

However, 11 months later as things began to cool down, a confession to a trusted fellow gang member gave the police a much-needed breakthrough.

Hughes had made the mistake of boasting about Kok’s death at a meeting in a flat in Antwerp in Belgium.

He spoke about the gun jamming and then the second attempt on his life at the sex club, unaware that his confidant was now a paid police informer.

The fellow gang member then told police what Hughes had said.

Now he was no longer a witness to the murder – he was a prime suspect with enough evidence to charge him.

In 2018 a European Arrest Warrant was issued, and Hughes went on the run using several false identities and passports.

He was arrested at a hotel in Turin, Italy, in January 2020 and flown to Scotland and stood trial at the High Court in Glasgow in March last year.

It was the first case where a UK national has been tried for a crime committed abroad involving a foreigner.

Glasgow Times:

The court heard Hughes, now 33, was a trusted member of the crime gang run by the two brothers, who cannot be named for legal reasons, and a photograph of him with them was shown to the jury.

The brothers from humble beginnings in Rutherglen had built up a global criminal network with links to the Colombian drug cartels that generated more than £100m a year.

The supergrass had been told by the two brothers to set up the meeting in the Amsterdam hotel between Hughes and Kok.

The jury was told that following Kok’s murder Hughes visited industrial units in Cambuslang, East Kilbride and Chapelhall.

Around £700,000 was found inside one of the lock-up garages and £40,000 of hi-tech anti-surveillance equipment in another.

The evidence of the unnamed supergrass was key in the prosecution case against Hughes.

Though he did not pull the trigger himself, he was guilty of murder if he had helped set it up.

Trial judge Lady Scott told the jury that they must clear Hughes on the murder charge if they did not believe the supergrass.

However, the jurors found his evidence credible, and Hughes was found guilty on March 30.

He was also convicted of importing controlled drugs, possessing firearms and ammunition.

The following month he was jailed for life at the High Court in Stirling and told by Lady Scott – who had described Kok’s murder as a ruthless execution – that he must serve 25 years before he can be considered for parole.

It emerged that despite being unemployed Hughes had an income of £40,000 a week from organised crime that allowed him to enjoy a lavish lifestyle including luxury holidays in the Algarve and expensive watches and cars.

The assassination of Kok had been investigated as part of Police Scotland’s Operation Escalade, which had already helped jail nine of Hughes associates for terms totalling more than 100 years.

At the end of the case Detective Chief Superintendent Stuart Houston told reporters: “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 and being involved in the importation of firearms.

“His conviction is testament to Police Scotland’s commitment to relentlessly pursuing criminals who think they are untouchable or above the law.

“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.”