King pardons former TV host busted for cocaine smuggling; Police baffled
Former television presenter Frank Masmeijer got released from prison early thanks to a pardon by King Willem-Alexander, he told De Telegraaf, which has a printed copy of the pardon. Masmeijer, 60, was serving a nine-year-long prison sentence for cocaine smuggling. The pardon does not sit well with the police, Jan Struijs of the police union NPB said.
Masmeijer, known in the Netherlands as a game show presenter in the 80s and 90s, was sentenced to eight years in prison by a Belgian court in 2017 for trafficking hundreds of kilograms of cocaine through the port of Antwerp three years earlier. The Court of Appeal increased his sentence to nine years. He started serving his sentence in Belgium but got transferred to the Netherlands recently.
The former presenter served about 7.5 years of his nine-year sentence. He told the Telegraaf that his release came as a big surprise. "Even the best lawyers never told me I could be pardoned simply because the chance was nil. I hope the outside world sees me differently now. I want to enjoy my new life. Get a job, earn money, and enjoy my granddaughter, whom I have now been able to hold for the first time."
The police are not pleased with the pardon, Struijs said to the newspaper. “Hundreds of police officers are working to curb cocaine smuggling. Masmeijer was up to his ears in it and does not have to serve a large part of his sentence. What the hell is going on?”
“Belgian judges severely punished Masmeijer because it was abundantly clear that he had an important role in the import of cocaine. What will the Belgians think of this?” Struijs continued. “This man was not caught shoplifting, but for the most serious crimes.”
Masmeijer’s lawyer Geert-Jan Knoops told the Telegraaf that he was “surprised” by the news. He did not help Masmeijer with the pardon request, he said. “I understand that a judge looked at Masmeijer’s file at the request of Minister Weerwind. I can imagine that the court looked at the punishment he would have received in the Netherlands for a similar offense. That is about seven years, and he already served that.”
“I am curious what arguments he put forward to make this happen,” Knoops said. “Ordinarily, pardons are only granted for extremely compelling reasons, such as illness or a family struggling because ‘father’ is detained. It is really something special, but good news for him.”
Police union NPB wants Minister Franc Weerwind for Legal Protection, whose signature is on the pardon along with the King’s, to explain the motivation of the decision. “We are always talking about cocaine trade in the ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam. We all know about the undermining and the threats. So the police are struggling with this,” Struijs said to NOS.
The Ministry of Justice and Security’s website shows that last year 131 pardons were granted, 30 of which with conditions. 320 requests got rejected, and 206 were withdrawn. The site does not give reasons.