Netherlands to prosecute Dutch coffeeshop owner imprisoned in Thailand

The Dutch Public Prosecutor is prosecuting four executives of coffeeshop chain The Grass Company for fraud, money laundering and participation in a criminal organization. One of those to be prosecuted is former owner Johan van Laarhoven, who is currently serving a 73 year prison sentence in Thailand for money laundering through the coffeeshop, ANP reports.

The other three suspects are Van Laarhoven's brother, a 57-year-old man from Tilburg and a 57-year-old man from Bladel. The first hearing in this trial is scheduled for September, the Prosecutor announced on Tuesday. The investigation into the coffeeshop chain started in 2011, initially on suspicion of human trafficking and possession of large stocks of hard drugs. The judiciary has a list of about 60 suspects, according to the news wire.

According to the Prosecutor, The Grass Company intentionally bought cannabis at too high prices in relation to the market price. The higher amount was paid so that part of the money can be laundered, a spokesperson explained, according to ANP. The profit made by selling the cannabis was therefore also higher than reported ot the tax office. "They did pay taxes, but 25 million euros too little", the spokesperson said. 

Van Laarhoven's lawyer, Sidney Smeets, filed an objection against this summons, he said to According to him, as his client is currently in a Thai prison, he may not be able to receive the summons and can therefore not defend himself. The lawyer added that there have been many attempts to question witnesses who can testify on behalf of Van Laarhoven and thereby maybe prevent this lawsuit against him. "But the Prosecutor seems totally uninterested in the story of the defense", he said to the newspaper. 

The Dutch man's lawyers are trying to have him transferred from Thailand to the Netherlands. Van Laarhoven filed a lawsuit against the Dutch state because he feels he fell victim to careless action by the Dutch authorities. A witness trial was launched in the court in The Hague last year, in an effort to clarify the exact course of action. Van Laarhoven's lawyers, police officers and prosecutors were among those who testified

His conviction in Thailand was partly based on statements from Dutch police officers in 2014 and 2015. But according to one of his lawyers, hearings in the civil proceedings ongoing in the Netherlands revealed that these statements are incomplete. For example, suspicions that where never proved were presented as proven crimes to the Thai court. 

In February a request was submitted for Van Laarhoven to be heard as a witness in the witness trial. The judge lodged this request with Thailand in March, but so far the Thai authorities have not responded, according to Dutch parliament also asked for clarification on the matter a few months ago and called on the government to ensure that Van Laarhoven is transferred to the Netherlands. The Ministry of Security and Justice refused so far.