Dutch National Johan Van Laarhoven was arrested and sentenced to 103 years in prison for money laundering. His fortune was made from running licensed cannabis cafes in his own country, and Dutch parliament members are urging the Thai and Dutch governments to remove him from jail for lack of evidence.
Parliament members from six different parties have joined forces and are campaigning for his release.
The Dutchman, who owned four cannabis cafes in The Netherlands, sold them in 2011. The sale and use of cannabis and cannabis cafes are legal in that country. The chain of shops were called The Grass Company and operated in the Dutch province of Noord-Brabant. Van Laarhoven has lived in Thailand since 2008 with his Thai wife, Tukta, and their two children.
Van Laarhoven’s company was investigated for money laundering in The Netherlands shortly after he sold the cafes. After several years of investigation, there was found to be no evidence. He made an agreement with the prosecutor’s office in the Netherlands that, if they wanted to investigate him further, he would return to his country within five days of being asked, according to The Chiang Rai Times.
The Thai authorities allegedly began investigating Van Laarhoven in 2014 after getting a letter from a worker at the Dutch embassy. The letter tipped them off that he made his money from selling marijuana and urged them to investigate.
A foreign ministry spokesman said in January that the Dutch embassy worker never asked for Van Laarhoven to be arrested and that they just wanted some information.
Although the apparent activities took place in Van Laarhoven’s home country, the Thai officials still went ahead with the investigation. Van Laarhoven and his wife were arrested just several days later at their Pattaya home. They were sentenced late last year and are currently in jail.
Van Laarhoven was convicted for spending money in Thailand earned by selling cannabis in The Netherlands. He was shocked. He told VICE, “Even the prosecution witnesses said they didn’t know what law we had broken in Thailand and what it is that we supposedly did wrong in the Netherlands.”
The Thai court concluded that any money earned by selling drugs must be illegal money and that spending it is a crime. They did not consider that his actions were legal in his country. His Thai assets were seized. His family’s home and vehicles auctioned off.
His wife, Tukta, was sentenced to 12 years in prison since her name is on their property purchase documents and officials have asserted that the money used to buy that property was earned by selling drugs, according to VICE.
Van Laarhoven has said, “the Dutch prosecutor gave the Thai court incomplete information. I hope some Dutch politicians will have the guts to finally put an end to this.”