Dutchman jailed for 103 years for laundering drug money

Dutchman jailed for 103 years for laundering drug money

Authorities take Dutch drug suspect Johan van Laarhoven, wearing a cap, to the Department of Special Investigation after a raid at their house in Bang Lamung district, Chon Buri, in July 2014. (Photo by Tawatchai Kemgumnerd)
Authorities take Dutch drug suspect Johan van Laarhoven, wearing a cap, to the Department of Special Investigation after a raid at their house in Bang Lamung district, Chon Buri, in July 2014. (Photo by Tawatchai Kemgumnerd)

A Dutchman arrested with his Thai wife last year in Pattaya after a raid that saw the seizure of more than 100 million baht in assets has been sentenced to 103 years in prison for money laundering.

Johan van Laarhoven, 55, will spend 20 years behind bars serving 43 concurrent sentences, Dutch media reported Tuesday. His wife, Mingkwan Kaen-in, was sentenced to 12 years for complicity in the plot to launder proceeds from van Mr Laarhoven's chain of cannabis cafes in the Netherlands.

Mr Laarhoven will appeal the verdict, his attorney, Tim Vis, told the Dutch-language Brabants Dagblad website.

"This is terrible news," he was quoted as saying. "Laarhoven was convicted based on the dubious actions of the Dutch public prosecutor and a judge who was not sufficiently able to assess Dutch drug-tolerance policies."

Senior officials from the Office of the Attorney-General, the Anti-Money Laundering Office and the Department of Special Investigation, equipped with arrest and search warrants from the Criminal Court and the Pattaya Court, searched buildings and houses belonging to the couple at four locations in Bang Lamung and Sattahip districts of Chon Buri on July 23 last year.

At the time, Thai authorities said Dutch law enforcement had asked Thailand to arrest and extradite the couple for their alleged involvement in the trafficking of marijuana to the Dutch coffee shops. They were accused of smuggling large quantities of marijuana into the Netherlands and being involved in drug trafficking for several years, laundering money through purchases of properties and other assets in several countries, including Thailand.

None of the Dutch media reports Tuesday, however, made any mention of any drug-trafficking charges and stated that the Netherlands, in fact, had only asked Thailand for information about bank accounts and asset holdings.

"The arrest was their own decision," a spokesman for Dutch prosecutors told the NRC.nl news service there.

Thai charges

Surasak Trirattrakul, director-general of the OAG's Litigation Department, told the Bangkok Post in July last year that Thai charges included counts for transnational drug trafficking and money laundering. They also faced criminal charges for operating a transnational criminal racket.

Amlo secretary-general Seehanat Prayoonrat said last year his office initially seized 10 bank accounts connected to the couple and their two children totalling 20 million baht, about 100 million baht worth of buildings and condos in Samut Prakan and three of their cars worth about 30 million baht, gold ornaments, two Beretta pistols and 159 bullets.

The Amlo found the couple had used money acquired from the sale of drugs to buy properties in Thailand, Pol Col Seehanat said.

Mr Laarhoven's older brother Frans, who also is suspected of money laundering in the Netherlands, told NRC.nl that the Criminal Court ignored evidence showing that taxes were paid on every euro earned from The Grass Company coffee shops.

"He could not be prosecuted in the Netherlands and so he has been left in Thailand," the Dutch media outfit reported him saying. "My brother feels he has been abandoned by the Dutch legal system and the media."

"From the beginning, we stated that Thailand is not the place to deal with this matter," the Dutchman's lawyer added in comments to Dutch-language news site Omroep Brabant.

Mr Laarhoven moved to Thailand in 2008 and sold his stake in the The Grass Company chain. The same year he sold out, Netherlands prosecutors began a large-scale investigation, leading to raids in 2013, 2014 and 2015, Omroep Brabant said.

In 2014, Dutch authorities sent what the Dutchman's lawyer called a "derogatory, incriminating letter" to Thai prosecutors, making false claims and urging them to begin an investigation.

At his sentencing Tuesday, Mr Laarhoven filed a hand-written letter complaining of "atrocious" conditions he is subject to in the Thai prison system.

He wrote that he shared his cell with "fifty murderers and rapists" and late last year he saw someone beaten to death in front of him. The corpse allegedly lay there for days.

Mr Vis complained that If Dutch officials had simply asked Thailand to deport the former coffeehouse tycoon, "he would have been in the Netherlands within five days. Now he is stuck there."


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