Ard van der Steur (Photo: Rijksoverheid.nl/Wikimedia Commons) - Credit: Ard van der Steur (Photo: Rijksoverheid.nl/Wikimedia Commons)
Netherlands convinced Thai officials to investigate of Dutch coffeeshop owner
The authorities in Thailand launched the investigation into former coffeeshop owner Johan van Laarhoven from Tilburg at the request of the Dutch authorities, Minister Ard van der Steur of Security and Justice acknowledged in a letter sent to parliament, Omroep Brabant reports. The Minister was responding to questions from concerned parliamentarians, demanding to know exactly how Van Laarhoven came to be prosecuted. They also want to know whether Van der Steur can help bring Van Laarhoven back to the Netherlands. Van der Steur wrote that Van Laarhoven is getting assistance from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but he is not actively working on getting the former coffeeshop owner back to the Netherlands. That is in the Public Prosecutor's hands, he wrote. The Netherlands sent a request for legal assistance to Thailand in June 2014. The Public Prosecutor's investigation into Van Laarhoven ran aground because several raids and searches in the Netherlands and other countries did not yield enough evidence to prosecute him. So the Dutch prosecutor asked the Thai authorities to start an investigation. Van der Steur stressed that the Netherlands did not request Van Laarhoven's arrest. The Thai court sentenced Van Laarhoven to 103 years in prison for laundering money he earned in the Netherlands with the sale of cannabis and hashish, through his coffeeshop The Grass Company. He has to serve at least 20 years of that sentence. Van Laarhoven's lawyer in Eindhoven, Sidney Smeets, is not satisfied with Van der Steur's aswers. He hopes that the parliamentarians will demand more from him. "A request was done for a criminal investigation. In that Thailand cold take all the necessary measures. Then I think that you are no Minister of Security and Justice if you don't understand that an arrest is possible in that." He feels that the Netherlands handled the request to Thailand badly. "They made no effort to establish in conversations that an arrest in Thailand is not the intention. No provision was made."