Expatica news

Dutch want arms dealer’s extradition after S.Africa arrest

Dutch prosecutors are requesting the extradition of convicted Dutch arms dealer Guus Kouwenhoven, arrested in South Africa on Friday, to serve a 19-year sentence for his role in Liberia’s bloody civil war.

“This morning shortly after eight o’clock local time, Interpol South Africa arrested Guus K. at his home in Cape Town,” the Dutch public prosecution service said.

“The Netherlands requested his extradition following his conviction to a prison sentence of 19 years,” by a Dutch court in April, the prosecutors said in a statement.

The Dutch businessman appeared in a Cape Town court on Friday afternoon, where his case was remanded until Tuesday for a bail application.

Kouwenhoven looked tired and wore a striped blue shirt and jeans in court as his lawyers argued that he was suffering from pneumonia and that there were concerns for his health.

He will be kept behind bars at a Cape Town police station until his next appearance, South African media reported.

Kouwenhoven, 75, was found guilty of delivering weapons to the regime of ousted Liberian strongman Charles Taylor between 2000 and 2003 in return for preferential treatment and lucrative contracts for his logging business, in violation of a UN arms embargo.

“There was a ban on weapons imports and these weapons were used to commit war crimes,” in Liberia and Guinea, Dutch attorney-general Cara Pronk-Jordan told the NOS public broadcaster.

“He made a camp available where weapons were supplied to the frontlines and supplied personnel to join the fight,” she said.

Dutch judges at the time of Kouwenhoven’s conviction added his business interests were “entangled with the political, financial and private interests of Charles Taylor”.

Taylor, a former warlord, sparked a 13-year civil war in his country when he led a rebellion in 1989 to oust President Samuel Doe, which deteriorated into one of Africa’s bloodiest conflicts.

He was elected Liberia’s president from 1999 to 2003, when he also supported Revolutionary United Front rebels in neighbouring Sierra Leone.

The Sierra Leone civil war claimed 120,000 lives between 1991 and 2002.

The owner of two of the biggest lumber companies in Liberia, Kouwenhoven was close to Taylor and in his initial case was sentenced to eight years in prison in June 2006, but was freed on appeal in March 2008.

In April 2010, the Dutch Supreme Court overturned his acquittal, ruling that the appeal judges had not given sufficient reason for not hearing the testimony of two new anonymous prosecution witnesses.

Prosecutors said Kouwenhoven was not in The Netherlands at the time of his latest conviction and most likely in South Africa.

It is not clear how long he has been living for in Cape Town or when he arrived there.

After fleeing to Nigeria in 2003, Taylor was arrested in 2006 and sentenced by an international UN-backed court in The Hague to 50 years in prison in May 2012.

Two ruinous back-to-back civil wars in Liberia pulverised the west African state between 1989 and 2003, killing 250,000 people.