Fugitive Dutch arms dealer linked to Liberian war nabbed in Cape Town


Cape Town – A Dutch fugitive, convicted of selling weapons to former Liberian president Charles Taylor, was arrested after being tracked down to a home in the Cape Town suburb of Fresnaye on Friday.

Members of the Cape Town cluster of police swooped on the premises and arrested Augustinus Petrus Kouwenhoven, who is in his mid-70s, during an early morning raid.

He appeared in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on Friday afternoon.

He arrived surrounded by a large contingent of police. He walked slowly as the police guided him to the court room.

Head of the Cape Town police cluster Major-General Jeremy Vearey was at court for his arrival.

Kouwenhoven wore a striped blue and white shirt and jeans.

His attorney Gary Eisenberg said he was informed on Friday that his client would have to appear in court.

War crimes

In April this year, The Guardian reported that Kouwenhoven was convicted by the Dutch appeal court of being an accessory to war crimes and for selling weapons to Taylor during civil wars. Judgment was handed down in absentia against him at The Hague on April 21, 2017.

It is understood that he was sentenced to 19 years in jail in The Hague.

However, during this process, he apparently absconded.

At some point, he settled in Cape Town.

Interpol got wind of him being in Cape Town and the South African Police Service tracked him down.

A Reuters report from April 2006 said Kouwenhoven was charged with war crimes and gun smuggling.

It said he was a former executive of the Oriental Timber Company and the Royal Timber Corporation in Liberia.

The report said it was alleged that militias from his companies were believed to have been involved in the murdering of civilians, including babies.

It said Kouwenhoven was involved in the delivering of weapons to Taylor.

‘Stolen Rembrandt paintings’ and deportation

The Guardian reported that he was deported from the United States in the 1970s for trying to sell stolen Rembrandt paintings.

Online court documents, detailed this legal action in the United States from three decades ago.

Those documents say that in May 1977, Kouwenhoven pleaded guilty to “conspiracy to dispose of stolen paintings in foreign commerce”.

It was reported at the time that he pleaded guilty to conspiring to sell seven stolen Dutch paintings worth about 15 000 US dollars to an undercover FBI agent.

Kouwenhoven had tried to have his sentence in this matter reduced.

The matter was adjourned to December 12 for a bail application. Kouwenhoven will be held at the Sea Point police station.

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