A former business associate of convicted Liberian war criminal Charles Taylor, the Dutch businessman, Guus van Kouwenhoven has been arrested in South Africa.
According to Reuters, van Kouwenhoven was picked up by security in Cape Town based on an arrest warrant issued by the Dutch authorities.
A Dutch Appeals Court convicted the 74 year old Mr. Van Kouwenhoven in absentia and sentenced him to 19 years in prison in April of this year.
He lived in Liberia in Liberia during the Taylor Presidency and was convicted as an accessory to the commission of war crimes and , arms trafficking and selling weapons to Taylor’s rebel faction, the National Patriotic Front (NPFL) in contravention of UN sanctions.
Major atrocities were committed by forces loyal to Taylor for which he, Taylor, was arrested, tried and convicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone which held proceedings in the Hague, the Netherlands. Over 250,000 people died in Liberia and neighboring countries and thousands others were maimed.
Van Kouwnhoven who has denied any involvement in the charges against him had been living in South Africa and avoiding return to the Netherlands, claiming that he is ill.
The timber trader and arms dealer is appearing before a South African judge on Friday for a hearing into the extradition request from the government of the Netherlands.
Global Witness investigated the business dealings of Van Kouwenhoven’s Oriental Timber Trading Company in Liberia. Information gathered from that investigation was used by Dutch prosecutors over a decade ago to convict Kouwenhoven. But the country’s High Court returned the case to the lower courts for a retrial.
It is widely known that Van Kouwenhoven used his lucrative timber company as a front to smuggle arms and ammunition to Taylor forces during the Liberian brutal civil war between 2000 – 2003.
Van Kouwenhoven was deported from the U.S. in the 1970s for this involvement in the fraudulent sale of stolen paintings.
Reporting by Emmanuel Abalo
West African Journal Magazine