Review of the Prime Video series ‘The IRT Affair’
An astonishing and sobering insight into the history of national crime that veers too far into docudrama.
How could the Dutch state become co-responsible for the massive importation of drugs from South America in the 1990s? From IRT Business This is the special investigation team that was created to fight drug trafficking, but ultimately played a key role in tolerating it. Anyone not too familiar with the current affairs of that era will get amazing insight into the nation’s crime history with this four-part documentary series.
The IRT (Interregional Criminal Investigation Team) was founded in 1989 after a critical analysis of crime by the CRI (a criminal investigation service that was discontinued in 2000), which showed that organized crime in the Netherlands was on the rise. . The first episode offers an intriguing sketch of the criminal environment (and the period leading up to it) of the late eighties, in which drug lord Klaas Bruinsma claimed a negative leading role.
The IRT saw it as their mission to take down Bruinsma, but when ‘de Dominee’ was liquidated in 1991, that focus disappeared and the organization increasingly focused on the overseas transport chain of soft and later hard drugs. Detective Klaas Langendoen, together with a partner, devised a special working method, the so-called Delta method, which tolerated the importation of soft drugs with the aim of mapping the operation of organized drug trafficking.
The sobering story of the IRT puts a bomb under the classic contradiction between criminal parties, national and international, and the police and judicial services that combat them. Controversy over the investigative team’s controversial method of investigation led to its dissolution in 1993, and a parliamentary inquiry later followed on the initiative of PvdA member of parliament Maarten van Traa. Looking back, Langendoen notes that the police cannot help but ‘compromise’ and that a few years ago (in 2013) questionable means (read: the use of criminal civilian infiltrators) were again used to fight crime to maintain the level of crime. .
It is tempting From IRT Business as a frontal attack on the functioning of the police and the judiciary, but the testimonies of (former) detectives, those involved in the criminal environment (including a friend of drug lord Mink Kok) and Langendoen himself are versatile enough to make it clear that there are multiple losers.
So you can’t dismiss the case simply by referring to the corrupt operation of the IRT, but that’s a drawback in terms of expressiveness: the documentary exposes a complicated web in which various parties target each other, and even rivalry exerted a great influence among detective teams (Amsterdam’s bulwark against ‘the region’). The creators take the time to explain everything, but even the crucial informational text for the credits sometimes feels like a compromise, in part because not all the key figures (including Fred Teeven) were able or willing to cooperate with the series.
An unnecessary addition to the episodes is the choice of additional fictional direction, in which a series of major (criminal) encounters are enacted in bleak settings and without directed acting (we mostly see postures, not faces). The way of working is somewhat comparable to the Errol Morris miniseries. Wormwood (although there is acting in it) and testifies to the somewhat exaggerated impulse to make documentary series ‘more exciting’ with the docudrama.
From IRT Business is a bewildering reconstruction of a time when police and justice rolled out the red carpet for revealing ‘fruit bowlers’, in the vain hope of winning a big hit later. Due to the many back roads, the series won’t be able to keep everyone focused, but those who are genuinely interested in the specific background of the issue will certainly get their time.
From IRT Business can be seen in first video.