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‘Fugitive’ Dutch arms dealer spotted driving around CT in luxury cars, court hears

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A Dutch arms dealer, convicted of crimes against humanity and selling firearms to former Liberian president Charles Taylor, was spotted by police investigators driving around Cape Town in his luxury cars before his arrest last week.

This emerged in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday during his bail application.

Two very different portrayals of Augustinus Petrus Kouwenhoven, 75, were presented during proceedings in court.

One was that of a very ill father of two who was monitoring legal proceedings he faced abroad via local legal representatives as he was too sick to travel. The other was of a man fleeing the law and living in luxury in Cape Town.

Kouwenhoven was arrested early on Friday in the Fresnaye by members of the Cape Town police cluster.

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

In an affidavit read out in the court on Tuesday, Kouwenhoven said he was so ill that being detained in custody for a long period could prove fatal.

Kouwenhoven, who also detailed problems with his left leg, limped slightly as he made his way to the dock in court on Tuesday.

However, Interpol investigator Warrant Officer Willem Jacobus van der Heever outlined a very different picture of Kouwenhoven.

Luxury cars, homes

He said, also via an affidavit, that it was known that Kouwenhoven gave a tour of his multiple-storey home, which it later emerged in court was in upmarket Bantry Bay.

“He gave a guided tour of his five-storey house when the elevator didn’t work. He was also observed [by police investigators] driving many of his luxury vehicles around Cape Town,” Van der Heever said.

Kouwenhoven had travelled in out and out of South Africa for about six years.

Van der Heever said Kouwenhoven had been former Liberian president Taylor’s confidant and was a friend of the president of the Republic of the Congo, doing business with that government in 2016.

Kouwenhoven had been embroiled in legal battles for years.

He was arrested in the Netherlands in 2005 and the next year sentenced to eight years in jail.

He successfully appealed and in 2008 he was acquitted of the charges he faced.

Flight risk

But in 2008, two anonymous witnesses came forward.

In April, Kouwenhoven was then convicted and sentenced in absentia in the Netherlands to 19 years in jail.

Kouwenhoven, who was ill in South Africa at the time of his sentencing, plans to appeal the April sentencing in proceedings set to be heard in the Netherlands in the second half of 2018.

Van der Heever said while Kouwenhoven said he was too sick to travel, he had, in fact, travelled to destinations including Paris and Brazzaville.

He believed Kouwenhoven was fit enough to be detained.

“Kouwenhoven is a fugitive from justice, which also makes him a flight risk,” Van der Heever said.

An Interpol red notice was issued for Kouwenhoven on April 21. A red notice is a request to find and provisionally arrest someone pending their extradition.

READ: Dutch seeks extradition of arms dealer arrested in SA

South African police obtained an arrest warrant for him last Wednesday. State lawyer Advocate Christopher Burke said Interpol officers had supplied a copy of the arrest warrant.

He said the original arrest warrant was expected to arrive in Cape Town on Thursday, along with Interpol officers.

‘No disposition for violence’

Kouwenhoven’s affidavit said he posed no danger to anyone.

“I have no disposition for violence,” he said.

But Van der Heever’s affidavit said Kouwenhoven’s convictions related to a civil war which “raged” in Liberia for many years.

“During the civil war, at the time of the Charles Taylor regime, he was one of his (Taylor’s) confidants,” he said.

Van der Heever said Kouwenhoven imported weapons, including AK47s, as well as ammunition, for Taylor.

He also provided camps for Taylor’s militia.

“They decapitated civilians, threw living babies into wells and shattered their skulls,” Van der Heever said, adding that Taylor’s militia had also kidnapped women and destroyed villages.

Van der Heever said it appeared Kouwenhoven was waiting for a convenient time to flee court proceedings.

In his affidavit, Kouwenhoven said he suffered from “extremely poor health”.

‘Three years left to live’

“My situation is such that my life expectancy is three years,” he said.

Kouwenhoven flew into South Africa in December 2016 and it was understood he had remained in the country since then.

On learning of the April sentencing in the Netherlands, Kouwenhoven said he immediately contacted his South African legal representatives.

Kouwenhoven said air travel could be detrimental to his health and it was therefore in his best interest to remain in South Africa.

The finalisation of extradition proceedings, he said, could take years.

Kouwenhoven’s affidavit listed many health problems which he said he suffered from.

This included an urgent prostate operation and, at another point, losing all the feeling in his left leg due to nerve damage.

Kouwenhoven said he was not able to care for himself daily.

It emerged during proceedings that Kouwenhoven and his wife married in community of property in April 2009. She obtained permanent residency in South Africa in 2015.

Kouwenhoven has 2-year-old twins, who were born in South Africa in May 2015, and stays in Bantry Bay with his wife.

Together they own the R90m home in Bantry Bay.

A two-storey home valued at R20m and in the same street was registered in the name of one of Kouwenhoven’s companies. He and his wife rented this out at R18 000 per night.

A third property they own, in Camps Bay, was recently sold for R12m.

The couple also has three cars – a Porsche Panamera, a Range Rover Autobiography and a Mercedes Vito.

Stolen paintings

Kouwenhoven, in his affidavit, said he had no previous convictions.

But Burke, for the State, pointed out that this was not the case as Kouwenhoven was deported from the United States in the 1970s for trying to sell stolen Rembrandt paintings.

Kouwenhoven’s legal representative Advocate Laurence Hodes SC said Kouwenhoven was never convicted for the matter.

The bail application continues on Wednesday.

Kouwenhoven would be detained at the Sea Point police station until then.

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