From sailor to prisoner. The wrongful Imprisonment of an Amsterdam Resident.

Thomas Charles, who is being held in a jail in Spain for a crime he claimed he had not committed. He is awaiting trial after being denied bail, accused of smuggling 500 kilograms of cocaine across the world. When reviewing the case facts, he's likely being wrongfully imprisoned. Our staff wanted to highlight this sad story to raise awareness of what can happen when things go wrong.

Main image courtesy of Tom Blackout


Please share Thomas’s story to help ease the financial burden on this family, and DONATE HERE!


***EDITORIAL*** Story claimed by friends and family of the sailor, and as stated by legal defense and the defendant.

Thomas is a much-loved young British man, a carpenter by profession, who has been living in the Netherlands for over 15 years.
Three years ago Thomas began preparing to obtain the Certificate of International Competence from the Royal Dutch Yacht Association and also a course that enabled him to pilot rental boats. He needed to complete a minimum of 100 hours of navigation in deep waters with an exam at the end of the course.

At the end of his first voyage from Denmark to the Netherlands in 2018, Thomas was introduced, through a 3rd party, to an Estonian by the name of Mikk Toome. Toome offered Thomas the chance to sail from Valencia to Brazil on the ‘Imagine’, a Dutch-flag pleasure yacht. This trip would allow Thomas to acquire the additional sailing he needed to make up the 100 hours.

The ‘Imagine’ set sail from the city of Turia on June 15th 2018 and arrived in Fortaleza, Brazil, on July 27th. Thomas then returned to Amsterdam by plane, via Frankfurt, to pass the final yacht skipper exam, scheduled for August 20th of that year (2018).


At the beginning of 2019 Toome hired Thomas again, with his new title and acquired experience, this time as captain to sail from Recife, Brazil, to Rio de Janeiro. A job Thomas did between 19th and 28th of January. He then returned to Amsterdam.
Finally in March, Thomas was hired for a journey from Salvador de Bahia to Rio de Janeiro. On April 12, he finished the job and returned, by air, to Amsterdam.


Throughout these trips Thomas was in regular communication with his father, David, with whom he is very close. They used phone and Internet and David was informed of Thomas’s geographical location with photos and coordinates included.


Then, on July 10th, the Portuguese Judicial Police, in collaboration with the Civil Guard, the National Police, the Tax Agency, the Netherlands Police and the Estonian Police, intercepted the ‘Imagine’. 497 kilos of cocaine were found hidden deep inside sealed compartments in the yacht. The interception was the result of an investigation dating from 2016 into Toome (who was arrested in Portugal in 2004 for the same crime).


And 13 days later Dutch Police raided Thomas Charles’ houseboat in the middle of the night. Thomas is accused of drug trafficking; and the arrest warrant wrongly places him in South America in May 19, when he was actually at work in Amsterdam.


Thomas’s lawyer, Jaime Campaner, says; “My client was not on board the ‘Imagine’ sailboat between the ports of Rio de Janeiro and Itajaí, in the month of May 2019, as indicated in the arrest warrant…Neither did he accompany the person in charge in the return navigation to Europe and transport of the substance as stated in the arrest warrant nor was he in the Azores, because, otherwise, he would have been detained as the crew on board the sailboat".


Two of the detainees Casper Igor Van Zantwijk, and even Toome himself, have given written testimony which corroborates that:

· Thomas had no involvement in the transport of the drugs,

· Thomas did not know the true purpose of his employers and,

· Thomas’s only intention was to make enough hours of navigation to obtain the yacht skipper's license.


After being initially detained Thomas was released on bail and then faced months of delay and disorganisation. The last year his life has mostly involved waiting for decisions to be made until finally, on 24th July this year (2020), Thomas was extradited to Madrid where he now waits in prison for his trial. Meanwhile Spanish courts will not acknowledge the errors and continue to refuse bail whist failing to follow proper procedures for bail hearings. Thomas could be held for up to 30 months awaiting trial, his life is in ruins. He is suffering terribly but is an innocent man. In Spain, apparently, presumption of innocence no longer applies.


“My client has complied from minute one with what has been asked of him. He has appeared before the police the times it has been imposed on him. He has collaborated in everything he has been told,” says Campenar, “The measure of incarceration in prison is disproportionate, unnecessary and burdensome and is out of line with the doctrine of the European Court of Human Rights.”

We are the family and friends of Thomas Charles from all over the world. We are shocked at the injustice of his situation. He is innocent. In normal times Thomas led a happy life that was full of adventure and promise. And we are devastated to learn that Thomas is struggling to maintain his usual positive outlook and that life in prison is shredding his self-respect. On top of it all Thomas and his family face mounting legal fees which have already reached €37,000 with an expected €20,000 still to pay out.


Please share Thomas’s story to help ease the financial burden on this family, and DONATE HERE!


There are a few articles about Thomas' situation, see links below.