The former Tilburg coffee shop owner Johan van Laarhoven is allowed to leave his prison cell in the penitentiary in Vught after a detention of more than six years on 28 August. The Ministry of Justice and Security has agreed to a request from its counsel to be released early on an ankle bracelet. The release is confirmed by his counsel Geert-Jan Knoops and Gerard Spong.
Van Laarhoven (60) has been behind bars since 2014. The founder of the coffee shop chain The Grass Company in Brabant was arrested in 2014 with his wife in the Thai resort of Pattaya, where he had retired since 2008.
75 years in prison
His arrest followed after the Public Prosecution Service in Breda had sent a request for legal assistance to Thailand. The OM asked for information in an investigation that has been running in the Netherlands since 2011. Johan van Laarhoven and his brother Frans are suspected in the Netherlands of money laundering and large-scale tax evasion.
Afterwards, Van Laarhoven was seen by the Thai as a major drug trafficker. Van Laarhoven was sentenced in Thailand to 75 years in prison for money laundering drug money, of which he would have had to serve twenty in practice. After the intervention of Minister Ferd Grapperhaus (Justice and Security, CDA) who traveled to Thailand a year ago to urge the authorities to be released, Van Laarhoven was allowed to leave for the Netherlands at the beginning of this year to serve his sentence here.
Family of Van Laarhoven at Schiphol: ‘I was not allowed to shake hands with my brother’
‘OM opposed release’
According to lawyer Knoops, the release of Van Laarhoven was opposed by the Public Prosecution Service: “The Public Prosecution Service in Breda has twice submitted an incorrect document stating that the early release of Van Laarhoven would be contrary to the agreements that the judiciary has with the Thai authorities. made. Release would put political relations with Thailand on edge, the OM said. The Ministry of Justice and Security has contradicted this, ”said Knoops.
The OM in Breda says she “does not recognize herself in the criticism,” said a spokeswoman.
The original date on which Van Laarhoven was to be released in the Netherlands was August 2021. The probation service has also agreed to electronic house arrest for Van Laarhoven. “He must also perform nineteen hours of community service a week and may not have any business contact with The Grass Company,” says Knoops.
Read more about Johan van Laarhoven: Unhappy ending in Thailand
Johan van Laarhoven and his brother Frans and three co-defendants have yet to stand trial in Breda for tax fraud, membership of a criminal organization and money laundering of more than 20 million euros. A hearing date for the trial in the investigation that has been ongoing for nine years is not yet known. The trial has been delayed due to the corona crisis, according to a spokeswoman for the OM.
Lawyer Spong says he cannot rule out the possibility that the attending public prosecutor Peter Snijders will try to have Johan van Laarhoven again imprisoned as a suspect in the tax case on 28 August. “The argument could then be that the Dutch prosecution is separate from the ‘Thai case’. This prosecutor is capable of anything, ”said Spong.
A version of this article also appeared in nrc.next on August 12, 2020