Dutch arms dealer used 'blood money' to finance his lavish lifestyle in Cape Town, court hears

Cape Town - A Dutch fugitive, convicted of crimes against humanity and selling firearms to former Liberian president Charles Taylor, used "blood money" to fund his extravagant lifestyle, the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court heard on Thursday.

During the third day of Augustinus Petrus Kouwenhoven’s bail application, State advocate Christopher Burke said Kouwenhoven had been convicted of "heinous crimes".

"He wants bail, but does not play open cards with this court. There is, however, no need to speculate as to the source of (his) extravagant luxuries," Burke said.

"It was the very crimes he was convicted of that made him so wealthy. This is all blood money."

Burke said, because Kouwenhoven had not revealed how he had achieved his wealth, it raised more questions about how much more he had and where he kept it.

"The houses and cars in South Africa are probably just the tip of the iceberg," he said.

'Opulence from pillaging a poor African country'

"The profound problem is that all this opulence came at the cost of pillaging a poor African country, while supplying weapons to one of the most notorious warlords of our time."

Burke said the weapons supplied by Kouwenhoven had led to countless murders of civilians.

"South Africa cannot be seen as a safe haven for international fugitives, and has international duties to extradite or try Mr Kouwenhoven," he said.

Kouwenhoven, 75, was arrested in Fresnaye last Friday.

He faces possible extradition to the Netherlands, where he faces a 19-year jail sentence, for crimes committed in Liberia between 1999 and 2002.

Following a series of legal battles, including appealing convictions, Kouwenhoven was in April 2017 convicted in the Netherlands of crimes against humanity and selling firearms to Taylor. 

Kouwenhoven plans to appeal his conviction.

In court on Thursday, Burke said it appeared that Kouwenhoven would never return to the Netherlands, and wanted to try and drag out extradition proceedings for years. 

Kouwenhoven’s release on bail, he said, would make him even more comfortable.

Burke detailed Kouwenhoven’s assets in Cape Town.

R90m mansion

"The most basic sense of fairness and justice cringes at the thought that he might just succeed and happily live out his days in his R90m mansion overlooking the Atlantic Seaboard," Burke said.

Kouwenhoven had just sold another home for R12m and his wife, Genevieve, owned a luxury spa in which he had just invested R6m.

He also owns, according to Burke, three luxury vehicles.

READ: 'Fugitive' Dutch arms dealer spotted driving around Cape Town in luxury cars, court hears

"He said he owns a company, but not what the company does. He does not answer the allegations of his friendship with the president of, and his logging rights in, war-torn Congo-Brazzaville at all," Burke said.

'Millions upon millions'

"He does not reveal where these millions upon millions come from."

Burke said Kouwenhoven was economical with the truth, by not mentioning anything about Congo-Brazzaville.

In court on Tuesday, it emerged that Kouwenhoven had been involved with the government there in 2016 and was friends with the president.

"It is submitted that he could literally flee anywhere at the most convenient time," Burke said.

"If he goes to Congo-Brazzaville, he is gone and justice will never be served."

He said South Africa’s borders were porous.

Kouwenhoven, Burke said, had left the Netherlands and had not returned to serve the 19-year jail term.

He said the crimes of which Kouwenhoven was convicted were recognised in South Africa.

Burke argued that Kouwenhoven was a fugitive from justice and, therefore, a flight risk.

On Tuesday, Kouwenhoven, in an affidavit, said he was seriously ill and had a life expectancy of three years.

READ: Detaining me longer could kill me - Dutch arms dealer arrested in Cape Town

Burke on Thursday said Kouwenhoven had only divulged his assets in South Africa after the court enquired about them, and this raised concerns about money and assets he may have elsewhere.

"Yet, even if these are all the assets he owns in the world, it is submitted that, at his age, given his health conditions and life expectancy, he would give it all up and remain free rather than go to jail." 

Kouwenhoven’s affidavit argued that poor conditions at Pollsmoor Prison would be detrimental to his health.

On Thursday, Burke said the hospital section of Goodwood Prison would be suitable for him.

He said this had been the case with UK businessman Shrien Dewani, who was accused, but later acquitted, of murdering his wife Anni while on honeymoon in Cape Town in 2010.

Burke argued that the saying "innocent until proven guilty" did not apply to Kouwenhoven, as he had already been convicted in the Netherlands.

'Double jeopardy'

Kouwenhoven's legal representative, advocate Laurence Hodes SC, said Kouwenhoven had already been convicted in an inquest-based process involving about 150 witnesses.

He said Kouwenhoven could, therefore, not be tried in South Africa, as this would be a case of double jeopardy.

Burke said he had simply wanted to point out that South Africa recognised the crimes Kouwenhoven was convicted of.

Kouwenhoven’s wife, with whom he has two-year-old twins, was in the courtroom on Thursday.

Earlier this week, she had been in Paris with their children, as they had left there for a holiday the day before his arrest.

When Kouwenhoven, who walks with a limp, left the dock on Thursday, he smiled and blew a kiss at her.

He is expected to hear on Tuesday whether or not he will be released on bail.

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