Thai court sentenced coffeeshop owner to 75 years in cassation

Johan van Laarhoven, a Dutch man who used to own coffeeshops The Grass Company in the Netherlands, was sentenced to 75 years in prison in cassation in Thailand. No further appeal is possible against this ruling, making the sentence final, his lawyer said to RTL Nieuws.

It is important that the trial in Thailand has now come to an official end. "The Netherlands has a treaty with Thailand that allows punished Dutch prisoners to serve their sentences in the Netherlands once a sentence is irrevocable", political reporter Roel Schreinemachers explained to the broadcaster. That means that the Dutch government can now start the process of getting Van Laarhoven and his wife transferred to the Netherlands.

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 75 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. 

"Let's hope the ministries speed up the procedures", Van Laarhoven's brother Frans said to RTL.

D66 parliamentarian Vera Bergkamp, who has been advocating for Van Laarhoven for years, is pleased that the verdict is finally final. "It's great that the punishment is finally irrevocable", she said. "An important step, because now the way is clear to apply the Transfer of Criminal Judgments Act. Hopefully the Dutch and Thai Ministries of Justice will come up with a solution soon, so that Johan van Laarhoven and his wife can come to the Netherlands."

Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus of Justice and Security visited his Thai counterpart on Friday to discuss Van Laarhoven's case.

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.