Johan van Laarhoven starts the construction of his empire in the eighties with a smart move: he opens a coffee shop outside the saturated Randstad. In 2011 he decided that it had been nice: he started to invest in Thailand, where he had been living for a while. Three years later, the door of a Thai cell closes behind him: what happened?
Van-Laarhoven case in brief
- Van Laarhoven arrested in 2014 for investing laundered money in Thailand
- Receives years of imprisonment, of which he now still has to sit +/- 2 of it effectively in NL
- Several procedures are based on defense: request for gratitude, provisional release for medical assistance and being held liable by the State
- Van Laarhoven is also being prosecuted for money laundering in the Netherlands
Van Laarhoven (59) has been running four coffee shops in Tilburg and Den Bosch - which together form the The Grass Company chain - for years if he decides in 2008 that it is just enough. He is going to live in Thailand with his wife Tukta and his two children.
Three years later, the coffee shop owner proceeds to the sale of his business in order to fully enjoy his retirement. It is around that time that the Public Prosecution Service (OM) starts investigating The Grass Company.
It remains relatively 'quiet' in the business for a few years. Many raids are being done, where business administration is confiscated. The Public Prosecution Service finally comes up with the formulation of the suspicions in 2014: Johan van Laarhoven and his brother Frans van Laarhoven are suspected of operating the coffee shops through a sham construction.
"It is suspected that a part of the purchase of the cannabis trade was incorrectly recorded in the books between 2002 and 2014, as a result of which the records and annual reports would have been falsely prepared. The funds probably ended up with the two brothers." It appears that millions of euros of money laundered are involved in the research.
205Frans van Laarhoven sees brother for the first time in years
Thailand is being sent a request
The OM wants to logically interrogate Van Laarhoven and sends a request for legal assistance to Thailand. If there is no response from the country, another message will be sent. This may state that the Thai authorities can also start an investigation themselves.
According to Van Laarhoven's lawyers, a real powerpoint presentation is being sent to Thailand. Hereby Tukta, while she is not suspected in the Netherlands, is also mentioned.
It doesn't take long before Van Laarhoven and his wife are arrested with a lot of bombing. Thailand has little interest in the Dutch tolerance construction with regard to soft drugs and blames the couple for having invested laundered money in the country. A lawsuit and appeal both have the same end point: many years in prison for the couple.
Civil proceedings from Van Laarhoven also make no sense. In the meantime, the Dutch case against The Grass Company is getting stuck because Van Laarhoven cannot be questioned due to his detention in Thailand. The couple's children are taken care of by relatives.
Van Laarhoven's health is declining
As time goes by, more and more details are revealed about the former coffee shop owner. He is in a tight cell with too many other prisoners and is losing tens of kilos. They do not have a toilet and diseases are rampant.
In the summer of 2019 there will be progress in the case. Justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus goes to the country to talk about the extradition of the Dutchman. Van Laarhoven can serve his remaining sentence in the Netherlands, it is argued. This procedure is successful on Thursday: Van Laarhoven lands at Schiphol in the evening.
Multiple proceedings concerning Van Laarhoven
He must therefore serve the remainder of his Thai prison sentence in the Netherlands, but this does happen with the Dutch maximum sentence: ten years and eight months. The 5.5 years that Van Laarhoven has already spent in the Thai cell are deducted from this. Just like any other Dutch prisoner, he is also eligible for conditional release, which means that the former coffee shop holder could be released after two thirds of his prison sentence.
One of Van Laarhoven's lawyers, Sidney Smeets, is trying with a procedure to prevent him from serving the remainder of his Thai prison sentence. There are also summary proceedings to release the man for the time being so that he can be admitted to the hospital.
In addition, proceedings have also been initiated against the Dutch State, because the defense of Van Laarhoven believes that it is liable for the culpable actions of the Public Prosecution Service.
And with that, the case is not over yet: Van Laarhoven is also being prosecuted in the Netherlands in the case that the OM announced in 2011. He will therefore be examined shortly.