Dutch court demands EUR 28 million from coffee shop owner

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The owner of the Netherlands' biggest cannabis-vending coffee should be fined 28 million euros and serve 18 months in jail, the prosecution in his drug trafficking trial said Friday.

The Hague--"The prosecution requested that Meddy Willemsen reimburse the EUR 28 million  (USD 38 million) collected during his activities," and "serve 18 months in prison," prosecution spokeswoman Elke Kool told AFP.

Willemsen, 58, is being tried with 15 others including former employees of his Checkpoint coffee shop in Terneuzen near the Belgian border and local suppliers, for drug trafficking and involvement in a criminal organisation.

Police seized over 200 kilogrammes (440 pounds) of cannabis on Checkpoint's premises in 2007 and 2008.

Coffeeshops in the Netherlands are permitted to stock no more than 500 grammes of the soft drug at any given time.

Sentences ranging from 180 hours of community service to a year in prison were requested for the other 15 defendants, said Kool. The verdict is due on March 24.

Before shutting its doors in May 2008, Checkpoint counted up to 3,000 customers a day, mainly French and Belgian.

The trial, which started in November last year, is widely seen as a test case in a country that has been toughening its stance on soft drug use.

Though technically illegal, the Netherlands decriminalised the consumption and possession of under five grammes (0.18 ounces) of cannabis in 1976. Cannabis cultivation and mass retail remain illegal.


AFP/ Expatica

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