Brothel-owner could be re-arrested next weekPOSTED: 12/8/11 1:22 AM
Court suspends detention slave-trade suspect
St. Maarten – Border Bar-owner Ignacio Augustine P.’s fan club applauded a ruling by the Court in First Instance to suspend his detention yesterday afternoon, but public prosecutor mr. M.L.P. Ridderbeks announced immediately that she will appeal the decision. The Common Court of Justice could handle the appeal next Monday; if it overrules the suspension, the 64-year old defendant could be re-arrested next week. The court postponed the trial until February 29 of next year, because the final police report is not ready yet.
The Border Bar is one of St. Maarten’s illustrious brothels, located in Oyster Pond. On Wednesday August 31, a team of thirty officers raided the establishment and arrested P. on suspicion of slave trade and firearm possession. The summons states that P. recruited women in the Dominican Republic, transferred them to St. Maarten where they were housed at the Border Bar where he charged them $53 a day for their room. The women were also confronted with a $3,500 debt for their air fare to the island. P. took away the women’s passports and let them work seven days a week as prostitutes for a very low salary. “He brought them into a position of financial dependency and locked them up in their work room after working hours. He limited their freedom of movement and isolated them socially. He also locked the gates at night and put bars of the windows of their rooms.”
The team that raided the Border Bar in August also confiscated a hunting rifle.
P.’s attorney Mr. Cor Merx asked the court to hear three witnesses. The first one is Amarily Ruiz-Montero, who filed the complaint against the Border Bar and who has in the meantime returned to the Dominican Republic. Merx also wants to hear Casa Blanca manager Qiucy Priest and brothel-owner Etienne Meyers – owner of Defiance Haven, El Capitan and Le Petit Chateau.
“Montero has a history with Casa Blanca,” mr. Merx told the court yesterday. “She has been there several times. Her work permit was also issued by Casa Blanca. The manager is able to indicate the problems there have been with this lady in the past. He is also able to contest (her statement that) she had to move to the Border Bar as a punishment. This aspect concerns the question whether the ladies have the opportunity to decide for themselves whether they want to continue with their job or not.”
mr. Merx said that Qiucy Priest is able to inform the court about the security measures that all brothels have taken in a time when they were confronted with a couple of murders on women working in their establishments. The attorney said that this offers a different perspective on the bars over the windows and the locked gate. “They have to do with security.”
The defense calls on Etienne Meyers as a witness because of his extensive knowledge of government and immigration rules. “The Executive Council has declared that brothel-owners remain responsible for the ladies from the moment they set foot on the island. Meyers is able to say from this point of view and the fact that recently two ladies were murdered which rules apply to brothels, what the purpose of those rules are and what the purpose is of the gates.”
mr. Merx asked the court to suspend his client’s detention. He referred to several cases whereby clients were allowed to await their trial in freedom – like the Bada Bing robbery, “cases against prominent citizens”, the case of a prominent businessman and the case against a lady who embezzled money from a casino.
“There are no grounds to detain my client any longer; there is no risk of collusion and his daughter has been released as well,” mr. Merx said, adding that his client is in bad health.
mr. Keppels allowed hearing of all three witnesses and she also suspended P.’s detention. “The investigation is getting bigger, and the team that works on it is getting smaller,” the Judge pointed out. She ordered the defendant to abide by the execution of an eventual prison sentence, to return to prison in case the suspension is lifted and not to contact witnesses. P. agreed to the conditions. His fan club was present in court in large numbers and applauded the judge’s decision.