Tuesday 07 July 2020

Minister goes to Thailand in coffee shop owner jail case

Photo: Rijksoverheid.nl

Justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus is travelling to Thailand this week for talks on the possible repatriation of a Brabant coffee shop owner who was sentenced to 103 years in jail in 2015 for money laundering the profits.

Grapperhaus has told parliament he will meet Thai prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and the justice minister Somsak Thepsutin on Friday to discuss the case, but would give no more details because of the ‘diplomatic nature’ of the visit.

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. This is the reason for the visit, Grapperhaus said.

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.

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.

In March, national ombudsman Reinier van Zutphen said Dutch officials were careless in their approaches to the Thai authorities, particularly in the case of Van Laarhoven’s wife who was not under investigation in the Netherlands.

In the meantime, the Dutch public prosecution department has agreed to settle the case against Van Laarhoven for €20m.

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