Prosecutor not annoyed by Justice Min.'s intervention in coffeeshop owner's case

Ferdinand Grapperhaus
Ferdinand Grapperhaus (front, left) at the International Missions Remembrance Medal during the World Forum in The Hague. Nov. 1, 2018 Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs / Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

The Public Prosecution Service is not displeased that Minister Grapperhaus of Justice and Security is meeting with the Prime Minister of Thailand to see if he can get Dutch coffeeshop owner Johan van Laarhoven extradited to the Netherlands, the Prosecutor said in a statement. Van Laarhoven is currently serving a prison sentence of 103 years in Thailand.

Grapperhaus informed the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, on Tuesday that he will be meeting with Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Friday and will discuss Van Laarohoven's case. He could give no further information "given the diplomatic nature of the consultation". 

After this announcement, NRC reported that the Minister's interference in the Van Laarhoven case was not well received by the Public Prosecution Service in Breda. According to the newspaper, the prosecutors think that that the Minister should not interfere in an ongoing criminal case, and that his interference may hinder negotiations between the Netherlands and Thailand on a settlement in this case.

This is not the case, the Public Prosecutor said in a statement on Wednesday. "The Public Prosecution Service knew from April that the Minister would make an effort to have [Van Laarhoven] transferred to the Netherlands", the Prosecutor said. "In light of the ongoing criminal case, the Public Prosecution Service has been in contact with the Minister about the preparations for his visit to the Thai authorities. Contrary to what some media claim, the Public Prosecutor is not dissatisfied with the intended trip."

Johan van Laarhoven owned four coffeeshops in Noord-Brabant under the name The Grass Company until 2011. He has been living in Thailand with his wife since 2008. He was arrested by the Thai police in 2014, following a Dutch request for legal assistance. A year later he was sentenced to 103 years in prison, 20 of which he has to serve, for laundering money earned through soft drug trafficking. On appeal his sentence was lowered to 73 years, but he still has to serve 20 years of it. His wife was first sentenced to 12 years in prison, and lowered to 7 years on appeal. 

In March, National Ombudsman Reinier van Zutphen ruled that the Public Prosecution Service acted negligently when submitting the request for legal assistance to Thailand. Van Laarhoven and his wife were named as suspects in the request. According to the Ombudsman, given Thailand's drug policy, the Prosecutor should have known that this could lead to them being arrested and sentenced to long prison sentences. 

Following the Ombudsman's report, a majority in the Tweede Kamer called on Grapperhaus to make an effort for Van Laarhoven.l