Lawyers accuse authorities of lying in case around floating meth lab

Drug lab found on a cargo boat in Moerdijk, 10 May 2019
Drug lab found on a cargo boat in Moerdijk, 10 May 2019Photo: Politie

Lawyers and the Public Prosecution Service (OM) clashed in a hearing against three Mexican men and 66-year-old Breda skipper Cor B. in a case surrounding an allegedly booby-trapped meth lab found on a boat in Moerdijk last year.

The lawyers accused the police and OM of lying to get their clients convicted, according to BN De Stem reporter Hessel de Ree tweeting live from the courtroom. The Public Prosecution Service denied all accusations. After some deliberation, the court denied the lawyers' call to declare the OM inadmissible and ruled that the case can continue. 

According to Bart Welvaart, representing Cor B., the lies started when the police first decided to search the boat. He thinks the local harbormaster likely tipped the police off that something was going on on his client's boat. Seeing that his client was previously convicted of a cannabis related crime, the police made up a story that they smelled cannabis so that they could searched the boat, he speculated. According to the lawyer, that was rubbish, because meth amphetamine does not smell anything like cannabis. 

Police officers then also lied in their statements, under pressure to get the suspects convicted, according to the lawyer. He referred to a cigarette butt found on the boat with B.'s DNA on it. The authorities want this butt to prove that B. was previously on the boat and hence knew about the drug lab, but according to the lawyer, the officers gave B. permission to smoke the cigarette in their presence. The officers deny telling the suspect he could smoke, due to the chemicals on the boat.

The  report of a remotely detonated booby-trap is also a lie, Welvaart said. When a water pump suddenly started pumping water into the boat in the middle of the night, his client and the other suspects were already in custody at the police station and therefore could not have set off the trap, he said. 

"All in all, this case stinks," Welvaart said. The authorities lying to get a suspect convicted fits in a banana republic, not in the Netherlands' constitutional state. The only appropriate sanction is to declare the OM inadmissible, the lawyer said. He called for his client to be released and his cargo boat, Arsianco, to be returned to him. 

Lawyers Henk Koopman and Laura ter Steeg, who represent the three Mexican suspects, agreed that the OM should be declared inadmissible. Otherwise, the case must be suspended indefinitely while they get to the bottom of these accusations, Ter Steeg said. 

The OM denied that the police officers involved in this case lied. Everything was transparently recorded, the OM said. It is possible that the officers remember events differently now, but the suspects' rights were never violated, the OM said. 

The court saw no evidence of the police officers being influenced by higher-ups. The court acknowledged that te officers' statements were inconsistent in some spots, but added that that is something different from falsifying evidence or giving false declarations.