Picture: Johan van Laarhoven and his wife Tukta during better times (via justiceforjohan.nl).
According to the Bangkok court Van Laarhoven is guilty of laundering millions of euros he earned with four coffeeshops in Den Bosch and Tilburg. Johan’s brother Frans van Laarhoven told local broadcaster Omroep Brabant:
“The world collapses beneath your feet. Firstly, we maintain that Johan is innocent. He has paid taxes on all the money he has invested, with the best intentions, in Thailand, a country close to his heart. Our accountants and fiscal experts have proven this beyond doubt. When you hear the verdict, you simply can’t believe it. You think: this can not exist. The world stops for a moment.”
“The worst thing is that the Thai judge indicated in his verdict that there really is no evidence that Johan has done anything wrong in Thailand. He has invested in Thailand and he has transferred money from various accounts. To get a jail sentence like this… I’m overcome.”
In an interview with NRC/Handelsblad newspaper Frans van Laarhoven declared:
“It’s outrageous that the Thai court did not in any way take into account all the evidence our lawyers presented. This evidence shows that taxes were paid on every euro that was earned in the coffeeshops in the Netherlands. He could not be prosecuted for any criminal fact in the Netherlands, so they covertly rendered him up to Thailand. My brother feels extremely let down by the Dutch politicians and the media.”
Sidney Smeets, one of Johan’s lawyers responded via Twitter:
“Terrible news from #Bangkok. Much strength to Johan and his family. A false and wrongful conviction. The Van Laarhoven case shows how the Dutch government surrenders its citizens to the whims of military regimes. The incomprehensibility of the tolerance policy now results in 20 years prison for Van Laarhoven for ‘laundering’ money on which taxes have been paid.”
Smeets’ colleague Tim Vis told newspaper De Telegraaf:
“This is terrible news for Johan van Laarhoven and his family. But while the verdict is to be regretted, the issue is not settled yet. From the outset, the defense has indicated that Thailand is not the place to deal with this matter. Because of the dubious and resentful actions of the Dutch public prosecutor Van Laarhoven was rendered up to a judge who has not been able to sufficiently assess the monstrosity that is the Dutch cannabis policy. This is apparent from the questions that the judge asked even in the reading of the verdict.” A decision about a possible appeal is yet to be taken, said Vis. “We will, in close consultation with the Thai lawyers, discuss an appeal or a transfer of criminal enforcement. We look towards the Dutch criminal case with confidence, the prosecution will have to answer for these Thai developments in a Dutch court of law.”
Chief Prosecutor Charles van der Voort called the verdict “perfectly understandable” in NRC/Handelsblad newspaper. Van der Voort: “Each country has its own criminal laws and merits and whether too heavy a punishment was given in this case, I do not wish to comment on.” Van Der Voort declared he is “happy” about the cooperation with his Thai peers. “Van Laarhoven was sentenced in accordance with the agreements on the laundering of drug money to the extent that they took place in Thailand and not for drug trafficking. We will complete the investigation into money laundering that happened in the Netherlands and will take into account the penalty imposed upon Van Laarhoven in Thailand.”
The VOC (Union for the abolition of cannabis prohibition) remains committed to a fair trial for Johan van Laarhoven in the Netherlands and immediate repatriation to the Netherlands. Extensive information about the Van Laarhoven case and VOC’s Justice for Johan campaign: www.justiceforjohan.nl
For more, watch this excellent video report on the case van Laarhoven: Dutch Drug Policy Reaches New Low.