A Dutchman who ran several cannabis cafes, or coffee shops, in the Netherlands and was jailed for 100 years in Thailand, is heading back home after years of campaigning for his release.
Johan van Laarhoven was jailed in Thailand for money laundering, even though the offences took place in the Netherlands. His wife, who is Thai, was also jailed.
Thai justice officials reportedly started investigating Van Laarhoven in 2014 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.
Last year, MPs called on the government to do its best to bring Van Laarhoven and his wife back to the Netherlands, after criticism by the national ombudsman.
Dutch justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus even met Thai prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and the justice minister Somsak Thepsutin to discuss the case.
The Netherlands has a prisoner exchange treaty with Thailand, which can only be implemented once a case has been ruled definitive. Van Laarhoven’s sentence was upheld late last year, clearing the way for a diplomatic solution.
His brother Frans told website Nu.nl the family are ‘unbelievably happy’ that Van Laarhoven is coming back. It is unclear whether or not his wife, who was not under investigation in the Netherlands and was jailed for 13 years, will be able to join him in the Netherlands.
Once back in the Netherlands, Van Laarhoven will have to sit out some two years in a Dutch jail to complete his sentence, broadcaster NOS has calculated. He also faces a criminal investigation in the Netherlands for money laundering.
‘The investigation will focus on tax fraud, membership of a criminal organisation and laundering €20m,’ a public prosecution department official said.
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