Thai court upholds coffee shop owner jail term, clears way for diplomacy

Appeal court judges in Thailand have upheld the 100 year jail sentence passed on a Brabant coffee shop owner for money laundering the profits, meaning the sentence is now definitive.

Van Laarhoven, who ran several cannabis cafes, or coffee shops, in Tilburg and Den Bosch moved to Thailand since 2008. In 2014 he was arrested by the Thai authorities and jailed for money laundering, even though the offences took place in the Netherlands.

Earlier this year, MPs called on the government to do its best to bring Johan van Laarhoven and his wife back to the Netherlands, after criticism by the national ombudsman.

Dutch justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus met Thai prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and the justice minister Somsak Thepsutin earlier this month to discuss the case – and diplomatic channels now remain the only way open to try to obtain Van Laarhoven’s release.

The Netherlands has a prisoner exchange treaty with Thailand, which can only be implemented once a case has been ruled definitive.

Thai justice officials reportedly started investigating Van Laarhoven following a letter from a Dutch public prosecution department official, informing the authorities he had earned his money selling marijuana and requesting help in a criminal investigation.

Although these activities had taken place in the Netherlands and the Dutch authorities had turned a blind eye to them, he was arrested and then sentenced to 103 years in jail, later reduced to 75 on appeal. His wife was also jailed.

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