Dutch arms dealer gets 8 years for Liberia sales
A Dutch businessman was sentenced Wednesday to eight
years in prison for smuggling weapons for a former
Liberian president, Charles Taylor, during the civil
war and breaking a United Nations arms embargo.
The man, Guus Kouwenhoven, 63, who was a Taylor ally
and business partner, sold Liberian timber on the
world market and brought back loads of weapons and
ammunition on his companies’ ships from 2001 to 2003,
judges at the district court in The Hague said.
Taylor, who is facing trial on war crimes charges,
organized and financed a decade of conflicts across
West Africa that left more than 300,000 people dead.
The move against the Dutch entrepreneur for his
wartime role in Africa is one of the first cases of
its kind, lawyers said. Some called it a warning.
“I applaud this because financiers and companies
working in the shadows of African wars are now on
notice that they may be held accountable,” said David
Crane, former chief prosecutor of the UN-backed
tribunal on war crimes in Sierra Leone.
In its verdict, the Dutch court acquitted Kouwenhoven
on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Prosecutors had asked for a 20-year prison sentence
because, they argued, Kouwenhoven had ordered workers
from his two timber companies to fight in militia
gangs run by Taylor. He provided these fighters with
weapons and vehicles and shared in the guilt of the
atrocities they committed against civilians, the
The judges said that not enough evidence was provided
to prove that Kouwenhoven was linked to atrocities by
his companies’ militias. The prosecution is planning
to appeal, a spokesman said.
Crane, of the Sierra Leone tribunal that wrote the
indictment against Taylor, said that his office had
assisted Dutch prosecutors. He said there was “clear
evidence” of the close association between Taylor and
Kouwenhoven, involving financing and the supply of
weapons and fighters.
Several weeks ago, during the trial, the Dutch court
tried to get testimony from Taylor. But Taylor, in
the custody of the Sierra Leone court, declined. It
is still unclear if he will be tried there, or at a
temporary outpost of that court in The Hague.
In their ruling on Wednesday, the judges said that
Kouwenhoven’s assistance to Taylor was “crucial,”
suggesting that his motivations were not political,
but rather “guided purely by financial interests.”
The Dutch trial, which opened on April 24, has
offered glimpses of the network used by Taylor, a man
often described as one of the most powerful warlords
of West Africa’s recent history.
Prosecutors cited correspondence found in
Kouwenhoven’s homes to demonstrate that he was a
close wartime ally and collaborator. Prosecutors said
that the Dutchman, one of several financiers used by
Taylor, practiced his trade by getting enlarged
concessions of valuable Liberian hardwood, selling it
internationally and using his companies’ ships to
bring back guns, rocket- propelled grenades and other
war supplies, delivering them at night in a Liberian
Kouwenhoven is the second Dutch businessman to be
convicted recently in the Netherlands for war
profiteering. In December, a Dutch court sentenced
Frans van Anraat to 15 years in jail for selling
chemicals to Saddam Hussein that were used to make
By Marlise Simons The New York Times