Dutch Ombudsman picks up case of coffeeshop owner in Thai prison

National Ombudsman Reinier van Zutphen is studying the case of Tilburg coffeeshop owner Johan van Laarhoven, who is currently serving a 103 year prison sentence in Thailand. The Ombudsman wants to find out how the Dutch judiciary handled his case and make sure that everything was done carefully and properly, the Volkskrant reports.

Van Laarhoven was convicted of laundering drug money by a Thai court last year. He was sentenced to 103 years in prison and he has to serve at least 20 of those years. His Thai wife was also convicted.

Earlier this week Minister Ard van der Steur of Security and Justice acknowledged in a letter to parliament that the Netherlands initiated the Thai investigation against Van Laarhoven with a request of legal aid. This happened after the Dutch investigation against him ran aground. The Dutch authorities suspect him of regularly having more soft drugs in his coffeeshop The Grass Company than allowed by the Opium Act, money laundering and forming a criminal organization..

The Ombudsman is asking "preliminary questions" to Van der Steur, a spokesperson for Van Zutphen said to the Volkskrant. "When we received answer we will see whether more can be done with this case." the spokesperson said.

In his letter to parliament, Van der Steur also pointed out that Van Laarhoven was convicted in Thailand for "proceeds from coffeeshops in the Netherlands", which the Netherlands can't yet prove was illegal. He therefore warned Dutch entrepreneurs working with soft drugs that they risk prosecution abroad if they spend money made under the Dutch Opium Act. "The legislation (including the level of penalties) of other countries belong to the sovereignty of those countries. I can not rule out that spending money made under the tolerance policy abroad holds risks."