BANGKOK – Dutch National Johan Van Laarhoven was arrested and sentenced to 103 years in Thai prison for money laundering.
His fortune was made from running licensed cannabis cafes in his own country, the Netherlands, and Dutch parliament members are now urging the Thai and Dutch governments to free him from jail for lack of evidence.
Dutch members of Parliament from six different parties have joined forces and are campaigning for his release.
In the 1980s Johan van Laarhoven started a coffee shop chain called â€˜The Grass Companyâ€™ in the Netherlands.
The Grass Company operated on four locations: two in the city of Tilburg and two in the city of Hertogenbosch.
Under the Dutch tolerance policy, soft drug where allowed to be sold in the shops.
In 2008 Johan moved together with his wife Tukta and their two children to live in Pattaya, Thailand.
In 2011 Johan decided to stop working and sold his brainchild â€˜The Grass Companyâ€™.
Around that date the Dutch Department of Justice starts an investigation into the business of â€˜The Grass Companyâ€™ and Johan van Laarhoven is named as prime suspect.
During this investigation, the Dutch police execute several raids on the shops, offices and homes of the coffee shop chain and several telephone and e-mail taps are being used and houses searched.
The investigations by the Dutch Department of Justice are not focusing on drugs, but mainly on tax-evasion and money laundering.
According to the Dutch head Officer of Justice, Charles van der Voort, partâ€™s of the daily turnover was being kept away from the official accounting by â€˜The Grass Companyâ€™.
These investigations by the Dutch Department of Justice took place over a period of 4-5 years, with no official claim or prove of any wrongdoing by â€˜The Grass Companyâ€™.
In 2012 and again in 2013 the Dutch Department of Justice sends an official request for legal assistance to Thailand, with no success.
The Dutch justice wanted to receive some information about the money and possessions of Johan van Laarhoven in Thailand.
On May 22, 2014 the Thai army takes control and the ruling government is dismissed.
On July 1, 2014 the Dutch Department of Justice again sends an official request for legal assistance to the Thai Department of Justice.
Thailand reacts by informing the Dutch officials that executing such investigations could take a long time, possible several months.
The Dutch Officer of Justice orders the liaison police-officer working at the Dutch Embassy in Bangkok to put more pressure behind this case.
This liaison police-officer, on July 14, 2014, sends a rather misleading letter to the Thai Officer of Justice in Bangkok.
This letter tells a totally different story than the official request for legal assistance.
The official request for legal assistance talks about money laundering; the letter to the Thai Officer of Justice only tells about drugs.
In the official request for legal assistance, is Tukta, the wife of Johan a witness; in the letter she becomes a suspect.
The official request for legal assistance is only asking for information and assistance in the Dutch investigations, the letter to the Thai Justice Department states a â€˜request for initiating an investigationâ€™ in Thailand.
On July 22, 2014, the Dutch lawyer, Gerard Spong, secures a deal with the Officer of Justice in the Netherlands that Johan would report himself within 5 days to the Dutch officials if they ask for him.
But, on July 23, 2014, Johan van Laarhoven and Tukta are being arrested by the Thai police.
Johan is not deported to the Netherlands, but is declared a suspect in the eyes of the Thai Justice Department.
On July 2015 the court in Bangkok declares that the Dutch liaison/police officer, who on July 14, 2014, wrote the letter to Thailandâ€™sÂ Department of Justice, was ordered by the Dutch prosecutor to make hurry with the case.
On November 10, 2015, Johan van Laarhoven was sentenced by the court in Bangkok to 103 years in prison (20 years effective) and his wife Tukta to 18 years (12 effective).
The verdict by the court in Bangkok states clearly that the case against Johan van Laarhoven was started after pressing request by the Dutch liaison officer at the Royal Dutch Embassy in Bangkok.
Also in the verdict, the court declares nothing about any wrongdoing in the Netherlands and simply states that dealing with cannabis is strictly forbidden by Thai law.
The AMLA (Anti Money Laundering Act), after august 2013, states that acts against the law committed outside the Kingdom of Thailand can by accounted for as a ground delict for money laundering.
Based on this principle, the Thai court accounts the business with cannabis in the Netherlands as a ground delict for money laundering in Thailand.
The tolerance policy of the Dutch government is ignored and whipped aside by the Thai court.
This AMLA (Anti Money Laundering Act) came into power after august 2013, but Johan van Laarhoven already sold his business in 2011.
All countries who co-signed this AMLA law agreed that the amendment of any law can never be enforced going back in time – so any conviction of Johan van Laarhoven based on this AMLA (Anti Money Laundering Act) law can be considerate as not relevant.
This verdict created the crazy situation whereby Johan van Laarhoven in the Netherlands owned and managed a respectable company and dutifully fulfilled his taxes on time â€“ but finally gets sentenced to jail in Thailand for money laundering.
Money laundering usually talks about so-called black money (no taxes payed and earned with illegal activities) that becomes white money through several administrative moves.
But the money Johan van Laarhoven transported to Thailand was coming from his legal and taxpaying business â€˜The Grass Companyâ€™ in the Netherlands and can by accounted for as being white money.
You cannot launder white money white and all the connected acquisitions in the Thai verdict like, being a member of criminal organization, are also not relevant.
Johan van Laarhoven and his wife Tukta are being held prisoner by the Thai court while being innocent.
The blame of this whole situation leans for a big part on the shoulders of the liaison officer at the Dutch Embassy in Bangkok and the Dutch Department of Justice, because of the false and misleading information they supplied to the Department of Justice in Thailand.
Back in the Netherlands resistance is growing against the imprisoning of Johan van Laarhoven en Tukta by Thailand and already more than 40.000 signatures are collected asking for action and political pressure by the Dutch government against the verdict in Bangkok.
Just recently about six political parties in the Dutch government (D66, PvdA, SP, GroenLinks, 50Plus and Partij voor de Dieren) joined hands and are demanding, under the direction of D66 member of government Vera Bergkamp, official action by the Dutch Government against the verdict of Johan van Laarhoven and his wife Tukta.
This D66 Member of Parliament Vera Bergkamp especially wants to know why the liaison officer at the Dutch Embassy in Bangkok wrote a â€˜request for initiating an investigationâ€™.
â€œThis is very unusual and serious because in Thailand you can be sentenced to dead for mishaps like that. I would like to know if the Dutch authorities deliberately pushed Johan van Laarhoven into this precarious situation.â€
Vera Bergkamp is demanding that the Dutch government takes care that Johan van Laarhoven and his wife Tukta to return to the Netherlands.
By Frans van Laarhoven