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MAFIA

Swedish mafia’s trademark cannot be rebuilt: police

Upon news that a man suspected as an accessory to a high-profile double murder in Södertälje was allowed to leave custody on Monday, the local community said a potential breakdown of the mafia trial would be "the beginning of a catastrophe".

Swedish mafia's trademark cannot be rebuilt: police

The release from custody of the 40-year-old does not, however, worry local law enforcers, although it remains possible that the verdict downgrades the accessory to murder charge.

Overall, the police said they were not worried that the case, which had to redone after a lay judge was found to be potentially biased in the first run last year, would crumble.

“On the contrary, there is more evidence this time around and it has

been worked through a second time for the retrial,” said Gunnar Appelgren, head of the investigation, one of Sweden’s all-time most complicated and expensive.

Eighteen people have stood trial in the recently concluded second edition of the court case.

The 40-year-old who left custody at noon on Monday is suspected of having played a pivotal role in the brutal murder of two brothers, of whom one was a local football star in Södertälje’s Assyriska club.

The suspect is not, however, the main kingpin, and Appelgren told The Local that the man did not have the clout to rebuild the Södertälje Network even if he were freed, which the police deem unlikely.

“A person can always go back to organized crime, but not in the same way. The key people are gone, and the Network’s trademark has been destroyed,” Appelgren said.

A local interpreter, who translated several interviews with witnesses, said the 40-year-old’s release from custody was no big deal. The name of kingpin Bernard Khouri, however, does still inspire fear in the community.

“If it was Khouri, I’d be worried,” the interpreter, who chose to remain anonymous, told The Local.

Khouri, who is being tried for conspiracy to commit murder, remains in custody. Local newspaper Länstidningen (LT) reported that he looked away as the prosecution showed pictures of the murdered brothers in the latest installment of the trial.

There were originally eight people standing trial for their role in the double homicide, but the first verdict found three of them not guilty. The prosecution chose not to attempt to prosecute them in the second trial.

The police do not fear any major revision of the sentences passed down in the first version of the trial.

“If it did, it would the beginning of a catastrophe,” a municipal politician told The Local.

“Södertälje cannot go back to how it was before the police stepped in,” she said.

Appelgren, who supervised the cross-agency investigation, admitted in 2010 that police at Stockholm County level had too long ignored the pleas for help from the industrial town, just shy of an hour south of Stockholm.

“It is difficult to explain the reach of this network, people lived in two different worlds,” the local politician said.

“A parallel business world, alternative banking with extortionate interest rates, a unique class structure…. when the police stepped in, people plucked up the courage to be Södertälje residents first and foremost,” she told The Local.

Ann Törnkvist

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MAFIA

Timeline of the Swedish mafia murders

A turf war over gambling in Södertälje fomented gang rivalry, a drive-by shooting, one murder, plus a double homicide of two brothers - one a local football star. As Bernard Khouri is jailed for life, The Local draws up a timeline of the Swedish mafia war that terrorized the town of Södertälje.

Timeline of the Swedish mafia murders

The gangs: The Södertälje Network and the X-Team, an off-shoot of Bandidos.

The leaders: Bernard Khouri, 32, and Dany Moussa, 34.

Khouri – the kingpin, nicknamed The Godfather by some Swedish media, was born in Lebanon in 1980, lost his father in the civil war, and moved to Sweden with his mother and maternal grandparents when he was five years old. He came into contact with social services repeatedly during his upbringing, left school without grades, and was diagnosed in 2005 with anti-social personality disorder, and classified as a psychopath.

The prosecution said: The "Södertälje Network" organized primarily young men of Assyrian origin (from Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria) in planned crime.

The defence said: There was no "Network", just a group of friends whose "culture included criminal elements".

A gang or just friends?: Did not identify any gang emblem, but said police wire-taps and bugs revealed leaders issuing orders to associates to carry out crime. The name of Bernard Khouri – or his nicknames Berno, Altaville, The Tall One, and Sabée – was used to intimidate people the network came into contact with.

The district court ruled: There was enough evidence to show that Khouri and his associates organized a criminal network. All 18 defendants were found guilty on Thursday.

But what happened?

2009

Khouri has assembled around him a group of friends and associates to control gambling machines in Södertälje – a business that put "significant amounts of money into flow" according to the verdict's assessment.

Dany Moussa, however, moves into the Network's territory by setting up the X-Team, an off-shoot of known criminal gang Bandidos.

Dany and his friend Mohaned Ali had on occasion both worn X-Team shirts at the leisure centre Oasen, which Dany's older brother Yacooub, as manager of the community hall, objected to, according to testimony.

December 23rd, 2009

A man with a partially concealed face stormed into the leisure centre Oasen (The Oasis), in the Ronna neighbourhood of Södertälje. He shot the X-Team affiliated and gambling-addicted Mohaned Ali, 23, with three bullets.

A witness told police that Dany Moussa, who was present, screamed that the shooter was Khouri's cousin Bibo. Dany later denied having uttered any such claim.

Ali bled to death a few hours later at the Karolinska hospital in Stockholm.

One witness who had contacted police later retracted his statements, after expressing much reticence to testify in court due to fears of reprisals. He later claimed he had been misinterpreted because he did not speak Swedish well. The police has maintained that the Swedish of the witness was excellent.

April 1st, 2010

Yacooub Moussa, older brother of X-Team leader Dany Moussa, placed a call to one of Khouri's team to say that if anything happens to his brother Dany, "it will be personal".

Later that night, Khouri's gang were driving when a Volkswagen car pulled up alongside their Volvo and the passengers inside started shooting. Two men were injured – one, a close friend to Khouri, suffering injuries that has left him paralyzed from the chest down since.

July 1st, 2010

Two months later, two men armed with one gun and one automatic rifle, a Yugoslavian-made Kalashnikov, stormed through a back door into Oasen and shot Eddie and Jacoub Moussa. A third man was hit by ricocheting bullets.

Forensics found that Yaacoub was shot 14 times, Eddie 17 times.

The perpetrators fled on stolen mopeds, later found incinerated close to the scene of the crime alongside two phones believed to have been used to co-ordinate the attack. The saleswoman of the two mobile phones, later questioned by the police, said that a very young boy had bought them from her in the store. One of the defendants specifically asked that the saleswoman testify.

A witness who gave detailed descriptions of the attackers later denied having made any observations during the double murder. Her subsequent attitude was described as "arrogant" by the police.

Another witness said that the victim's brother Dany said later that same evening that he was going to "burn Södertälje to the ground and kill everyone" – but said he didn't know what the statement was in reference to.

October 26th, 2010

Two X-team members are found guilty of attempted murder for shooting at Khouri's car and injuring two Network members in April of the same year.

December 2010

A wire-tap revealed Khouri asking a Network member to use Western Union to transfer 1.5 million kronor ($230,000) to him in Lebanon, where he needed 100,000 kronor to buy a wedding dress for his bride-to-be.

The first trial: A five-hour testimony by Dany Moussa – the X-Team leader who lost his friend Mohaned Ali and his brothers Eddie and Jacoub – simply had Dany stating that he had no comments.

In the final verdict, the district court underlined that many witnesses had shown great reticence in coming forward and testifying – "it is therefore evident that many witness have felt fear".

2010

Police decide to put an end to the increasingly brazen gang turf war in Södertälje, and assemble a team of between 60 to 80 people – "the best cops available", according to the officer in charge – and set about tying police work in with other state agencies' work.

2011

The police arrest Khouri, who is still living with his mother.

August 29th, 2013

Khouri is sentenced to life in prison for conspiracy to commit three murders, along with other crimes.

Ann Törnkvist

Follow Ann on Twitter here

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