Suspect in Holloway Case Allegedly Caught Arranging for Sex Workers
Dutch reporter Peter R. de Vries Sets Up Sting Operation Involving Joran van der Sloot
By SARAH NETTER, RICH MCHUGH and OLIVIA STERNS
Nov. 10, 2008—
The prime suspect in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway has been caught on camera apparently arranging to bring Thai sex workers to Europe, according to a Dutch television program.
Joran van der Sloot, the man last seen with Holloway in Aruba the night before she disappeared in 2005, was set up in a Bangkok hotel by Dutch crime reporter Peter R. de Vries, who made headlines earlier this year for releasing an undercover video of van der Sloot talking with a friend about taking the American teen's body out to the ocean.
The Dutch television program that aired last night detailed how men working for de Vries allegedly got to know van der Sloot, saying they were interested in bringing Thai women to the Netherlands. In e-mail conversations over several months, van der Sloot allegedly detailed how the women would be told they would get three-month visas to work as models but would actually be working as prostitutes once they got to the Netherlands, according to the Dutch broadcast.
In the grainy undercover video, shot at the Landmark Hotel in Bangkok, van der Sloot, once baby-faced but now heavier with scruffy facial hair, can be seen meeting with de Vries' men as he brings two young Thai women to a meeting in a hotel room. The meeting was recorded by hidden cameras. Later he is also caught on tape allegedly accepting a $1,000 cash advance for his services, the Dutch broadcast claimed.
De Vries later confronted van der Sloot on the phone and told him about the sting, prompting van der Sloot to angrily deny any wrongdoing, but he also thanked DeVries for the $1,000.
Dutch news reports said today that Thai authorities had requested a transcript of the de Vries video. The Dutch media claimed that van der Sloot had left Bangkok and his whereabouts were not known.
The Dutch reporter won an Emmy for his undercover work earlier this year in which van der Sloot appeared to admit he was present when Holloway died and that he had helped to dump her body in the ocean. De Vries said then that he is "totally convinced Joran is telling the truth" on the tape.
Holloway, 18, was last seen May 30, 2005, while visiting Aruba on her high school's senior class trip. Van der Sloot had been detained twice relating to Holloway's disappearance, but was released both times after law enforcement officials said there wasn't enough evidence to hold him.
Aruban investigators traveled to the Netherlands earlier this year to question van der Sloot after de Vries' explosive tape caused them to reopen the case.
"I am telling you honestly, I know what happened to that girl," van der Sloot told an associate of de Vries', Patrick Van der Eem, on the undercover video. He went on to say that Holloway died in his arms and that he called a friend to dispose of her body.
"Joran is telling the truth about what happened to Natalee," De Vries told "Good Morning America" in an exclusive interview in February, adding that "she died in his arms on the beach that night."
On the tape, van der Sloot told van der Eem that Holloway suffered a seizure during a romantic encounter between the pair, who had met hours before at a local nightclub.
At another point he told van der Eem, "I tried to shake her. I was shaking the bitch. I was like, 'What is wrong with you man?' I almost wanted to cry."
Van der Sloot said he felt lucky the police were not able to recover Holloway's body.
"I think I am incredibly lucky that she's never been found because if she had been found I would be in deep [excrement]," van der Sloot said on the tape.
De Vries dismissed van der Sloot's claim that he was lying on the tape or that drugs affected his statement, saying, "I don't buy these allegations."
Instead de Vries said the only question that remained was the identity of "Daury," the "really good friend" whom van der Sloot said he called from a pay phone and who he said helped him dispose of Holloway's body.
"Our insider was pushing him the next day [after the taped confession] a little bit on the name; and then he came up with 'Daury,' but the name he mentioned is not the Daury in the news," De Vries said.
Van der Sloot's attorney, Joe Tacopina, said there's evidence to suggest the pay phone call never happened. Tacopina said the Aruban Coast Guard checked the pay phone that Joran talked about on the tape and found no such call, which would apparently give credence to van der Sloot's claim that the story he told on the tape was a lie.
"The Aruban Coast Guard has already looked at that pay phone. There is no such call," Tacopina said.
But de Vries said Aruban investigators told him it was not possible to for them to determine if the call was placed.
"I don't know how [Tacopina] knows this, because I had a telephone call a couple of months ago; saying it's impossible to say," De Vries said. "Maybe he is the same like his client and made some things up."
Aruban investigators have yet to publicly weigh in on recent developments in the case.
Some say that De Vries' methods, namely the fact that he used van der Eem to gain van der Sloot's confidence and videotaped him unknowingly, crossed a journalistic line. But he said he had no regrets.
"We did what we had to do, and what we accomplished is that the investigation is reopened and that Joran is again a suspect for homicide. Before this Joran considered himself as a winner," De Vries said.
If van der Sloot's own words are to be believed -- his fears about the body being found, and his calling a "really good friend" instead of an ambulance -- then his story raises questions about the identity of his friend with the boat, Daury, and the possibility of that pay phone call.
ABC News' Elizabeth Vargas caught up with Daury Rodriguez, a 21-year-old Aruban man and longtime friend of van der Sloot's, in Aruba in February. Rodriguez denied that van der Sloot had called him or that he was with van der Sloot on the beach the night Holloway disappeared.
"So when Joran Van der Sloot said he had a friend named Daury who was here on the beach May 29, 2005, it wasn't you?" Vargas asked him.
"No," Rodriguez replied. He also told Vargas that van der Sloot apologized and said in an online conversation that he'd lied.