Attorney asks court to acquit Laveist

POSTED: 10/5/12 1:06 PM

St. Maarten – Attorney Mr. Jason Rogers asked the Common Court of Justice on Wednesday to acquit his client MP Louie Laveist of all charges for lack of evidence. “This case has been going on for at least four years. My client and his family have been through a great deal over the years,” Mr. Rogers told the court. “There were constant reports about this case in the media. If your court comes to a conviction for one of the facts, my client asks that you take into account that he and his family have been through a whole lot of distress and humiliation because of the publicity. The fact that the case is still not finished after four years and that he is still living in uncertainty is also a punishment.”
Mr. Rogers asked the court for a conditional sentence or community service in case it considers one or more of the charges proven. He labeled the prosecution’s demand to ban Laveist from office for 3 years as unreasonable.
The prosecution demanded on Wednesday 8 months imprisonment, with 4 months suspended, 3 years of probation, a 5,000guilders ($2,775) fine and a 3-year ban from holding office. The Common Court pronounces its verdict on October 24.
The attorney said that there is no proof Laveist forged minutes of his Culture Club Foundation in 2003. “The meeting did take place, Laveist did resign (as the foundation’s president – ed.), it was unanimously accepted and the board did not appoint new members.”
“The prosecution cannot prove that the meeting was not held, or that the decisions stated in the minutes were not the decisions that were taken during the meeting,” Mr. Rogers said.
He added that the Antillean co-financing organization Amfo had not made Laveist’s resignation from the Culture Club Foundation a condition for granting a subsidy for his Rally Around the Flag project. Amfo did mention that there could be a conflict of interest – given Laveist’s position as a Commissioner in the Executive Council – but Laveist had then taken the initiative to resign.
“Even if the decision was taken by the board for Laveist to resign for the specific purpose of getting the subsidy, that still does not make the minutes false,” Mr. Rogers said. “Nothing was false about that document.”
Mr. Rogers also contested that Laveist had defrauded Amfo with the Rally Around the Flag project because the subsidy the foundation received for it was spent on the project and not on other things. “The funds were used for the intended purpose. The prosecution cannot deny that.”
The attorney also contested the charge that Laveist had taken a bribe from Bemal Enterprises owner Alessio Bembo in the form of an all-expenses paid trip to Canada in 2003. “Laveist ran a very long and intensive election campaign. Bembo told him that he would send him on a vacation for some R&R after the election. At no point did Laveist think this was a bribe for Bembo’s company to get the assignment to furnish the new government building.”
In 2003, the attorney pointed out, the government building still had to be constructed and decisions about its furnishings were not up to Laveist alone. The charge that the former Commissioner also accepted a $10,000 bribe is also incorrect, Mr. Rogers said. “That money was given to his assistant Roberto Richardson for his church.”
In 2007, The Culture Club received a $6,000 check from Bargains Unlimited. That was to pay for ads on the foundation’s radio program, and there was no link with work permits the company later requested, Mr. Rogers said, adding that his client never made the connection between Bargains Unlimited and Joey’s Jewelry, the name under which it does business.
Bargains Unlimited requested 13 work permits for sales associates in 2007, and in the end received 8 permits – even though there was a moratorium on these positions for foreign employees. “It is incorrect to think that Laveist was the one that had the sole power to decide about a work permit,” Mr. Rogers said, after describing the procedure these permits go through in the labor department and – in certain cases – the Executive Council.
The charge for employing an illegal hairdresser at Barbershop 2 also cannot lead to a conviction, Mr. Rogers said, because the company does not belong to his client, he was not the employer of the hairdresser and he did not pay his wages.

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