Coffeeshop owner heading back to NL after years in Thai prison: report

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After spending years in prison in Thailand, Dutch coffeeshop owner Johan van Laarhoven is on a plane back to the Netherlands. The plane has left Thai airspace and is expected to land at Schiphol Airport on Thursday evening, Van Laarhoven's family confirmed to NU.nl.

"We are incredibly happy with Johan's return," his brother Frans van Laarhoven said to the newspaper. "My family and I can't wait to have him back in our midst."

Van Laarhoven's wife, a Thai national who was arrested with Van Laarhoven in 2014, is still in prison in Thailand. The Van Laarhoven family said there's hope that she too will be brought to the Netherlands soon.

Van Laarhoven owned coffeeshop chain The Grass Company in the Netherlands. He moved to Thailand with his wife after his retirement. In 2014, the Dutch Public Prosecutor made a request for information on Van Laarhoven to Thailand, after which the Thai authorities arrested him. 

The Dutch man was later convicted of money laundering. A Thai court sentenced him to 103 years in prison, of which he had to effectively serve 20 years. That sentence was later lowered to 75 years on appeal, and the appeal sentence was confirmed in cassation in August last year.

Once the final ruling was in, the Netherlands started the process of bringing Van Laarhoven to the Netherlands to serve his sentence here. Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus of Justice and Security met with Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha in Bangkok to discuss the case.

The Dutch National Ombudsman previously said in a report that the Netherlands acted carelessly in the investigation of Van Laarhoven and his wife, and that this negligence directly led to their arrest and years long prison sentences. 

The Dutch Public Prosecutor suspects that Van Laarhoven had too large stocks of soft drugs in his coffeeshops, and that he used the coffeeshops to launder money. The criminal investigation against him and dozens of other suspects is still ongoing. 

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