In August last year, the Supreme Court reduced an Appeal Court 75-year sentence to 50 years but upheld the conviction for money laundering on the proceeds of the sale of his coffee shop business in the Netherlands which he transferred to Thailand after he retired. The sum was in the region of ฿300 million. This followed days after a visit to Bangkok by the Dutch Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus where it is believed the Dutchman’s case was discussed with Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha.

Dutchman John Van Laarhoven, jailed in Thailand for over 100 years in 2015 and held in custody in a tough Thai prison since 2014, has been sensationally released in recent hours according to reports. His family in the Netherlands have told the media there that they are looking forward to welcoming him home to Holland where a €20 million settlement from the government awaits him after his ordeal for which Dutch authorities have accepted full liability.

The 59-year-old Dutchman coming to court in Thailand in a prison bus on one of his many appearances before the criminal courts where he was initially sentenced to 100 years in 2015 and later had this reduced on his final appeal to the Thai Supreme Court last August to 50 years. It is now reported that the Dutchman has been freed and is on his way home to the Netherlands.

It is being reported in the Netherlands that the 59-year-old Dutch businessman and retiree Johan van Laarhoven who was jailed in Thailand for over 100 years and later had his sentence reduced to 75 years on appeal and finally to 50 years, has been freed from prison in Thailand.

Read more about Johan Van Laarhoven’s story here 

No details are clear yet by his brother Frans has told a Dutch news media site that the family are overjoyed and are looking forward to warmly embracing him back home to Holland.

Dutchman’s case is big news in Holland

The Dutchman’s case made big news in the Netherlands last year when public outcry and political pressure was brought to bear after the country’s Ombudsman castigated state officials for their bungling of a low key tax query to Thai authorities into the sale of the Dutchman’s legal cannabis coffee chain.

This led to a criminal investigation and from there to a televised arrest in Thailand, the seizure of the Dutchman’s assets and his subsequent jailing for life. His young Thai wife, Mingkwan, was also jailed as an accomplice.

Ombudsman castigated Dutch officials over the affair

Her plight was particularly mentioned by the Ombudsman and politicians in the Netherlands who condemned the handling of the matter and its outcome. 

Such was the outcry, that Dutch prosecutors last year agreed on a €20 million compensation package for Mr Laarhoven even though his conviction was legally perfectly valid under Thailand’s sweeping and wide-ranging money-laundering laws.

Dutch Justice Minister in Bangkok last August

In August last year, the Dutch Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus had a personal meeting with Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha on the case.

Hopes were dashed within days of this when the Thai Supreme Court, in an emphatic and clear judgment under Thai law, confirmed the guilt of the Dutchman saying that ฿300 million was an extraordinary price for several coffee shops and also pouring suspicion on the clandestine manner used by Mr Laarhoven to transfer the funds to Thailand.

We are not clear yet on how the release of the Dutchman has come about or on the fate of his loyal wife, Mingkwan Kaen-in, who was jailed for seven years and 4 months in connection with the affair.

Sting on the tail

The Dutchman is being released, it is understood under a prisoner exchange treaty between the two countries. This became possible after the finalisation of the case and legal proceedings last year by the Thai Supreme Court.

This means that Van Laarhoven still faces the possibility of two more years in a Dutch prison on his return.

However, he is reported to be now also the subject of a criminal enquiry into his business dealings and associates in the Netherlands as a separate matter.

Further reading:

Court upholds the conviction of Dutchman Johan Van Laarhoven on drug money laundering

Dutch Justice Minister flies to Bangkok to discuss the case of Dutchman jailed for 75 yrs

More foreign nationals in Thai prison but there are conflicting reports on harsh conditions