Page last updated at 16:29 GMT, Thursday, 25 March 2010

Dutch coffee shop fined 10m euros for breaking drug law

File picture of coffee shop Checkpoint in Terneuzen, Netherlands
At its height, Checkpoint served up to 3,000 customers a day

A Dutch court has fined the owner of the Netherlands' biggest cannabis-selling coffee shop 10m euros (£9m, $13.3m) for breaking drugs laws.

Owner Meddie Willemsen, who was tried along with 15 staff of the Checkpoint coffee shop in Terneuzen, was also sentenced to a 16-week prison term.

He was convicted for keeping more than the maximum tolerated amount of 500g (18oz) of drugs at the cafe.

Checkpoint served up to 3,000 people a day before being closed last year.

On a couple of occasions, police found 200kg (440lb) of cannabis when they raided the coffee house.

Willemsen was sentenced to 16 weeks in prison, but was released as he had already spent the time in jail ahead of the trial.

He and his staff were convicted of breaking drugs laws, exporting drugs and membership of a criminal organisation.

The 10m euro fine was lower than the 28m euro fine prosecutors had asked for because of the "role of the authorities" in allowing Checkpoint to grow unchecked.

"Checkpoint could not have expanded as much as it did without collaboration from the municipality of Terneuzen," a court statement said.

The town, close to the Belgian border, put up road signs showing the way to the Checkpoint and built a car park near it to reduce traffic congestion in town.

Though technically illegal, the Netherlands decriminalised the consumption and possession of under 5g (0.18oz) of cannabis in 1976 under an official "tolerance" policy.

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