Beleaguered MP Illidge returns to St. Maarten “Dark days ahead”

POSTED: 03/11/13 12:24 AM
Illidge returns homeIndependent MP Patrick Illidge answers questions from journalist Maximo Castro and Today’s Editor-in-Chief Hilbert Haar upon his return to St. Maarten yesterday afternoon. Photo Today / Leo Brown.

St. Maarten / By Hilbert Haar – “There are dark days ahead for St. Maarten. In the next couple of days you will see a lot of developments,” said Independent MP Patrick Illidge upon his return from the Netherlands yesterday.
Illidge, who is at the center of a bribery scandal involving Bada Bing owner Jaap van den Heuvel and Justice Minister Roland Duncan, seemed relaxed and almost happy to see the journalists and photographers who were waiting for him at the airport.
“Thank you for coming out,” he said. Illidge did not want to say much about the video footage that surfaced last week and that shows how Van den Heuvel pays him $15,000. “There is more to this than meets the eye,” he said, declining to answer a question whether he thinks that the footage is manipulated in one way or another.
Asked whether attorney Jairo Bloem will represent him in this matter, Illidge said that he had not taken legal counsel yet. He added that he was not afraid of being arrested upon his return. “I will report myself to the prosecutor’s office,” he said.
The prosecutor’s office issued a press release on Saturday, showing that it was fast with its reaction after the video was published on the website of The Daily Herald and subsequently on the site of Youtube. On Friday Attorney-General Dick Piar gave the green light to start an investigation into the scandal. Immediately, detectives of the National Detective Agency (Landsrecherche) subpoenaed the video at the office of the Daily Herald. The newspaper cooperated with the authorities and handed over the material.

Under supervision of the Judge of Instruction detectives conducted house searches at the home of Patrick Illidge in Pointe Blanche, at strip club Bada Bing and at the offices of the Immigration and Naturalization Service IND on Illidge Road, close to the office of Justice Minister Roland Duncan.
In Illidge’s home a 29-year-old Spaniard – M.R.M.S. – was arrested after detectives found a firearm and ammunition.
At the other locations detectives confiscated another firearm and ammunition, though it is unclear whether the weapon was found at the strip club or at the IND-offices. Detectives also confiscated an unknown amount of cash, immigration documents, computers, laptops, an iPad, USB sticks, phones, official documents and papers and photo cameras.

Yesterday detectives conducted a search at the quarters of MP Illidge at the parliament building and the faction room. The detectives conducted the search in the presence of the Vice President of Parliament Leroy de Weever and the deputy registrar of parliament to make sure that only the interest of the criminal investigation was taken into account, the prosecutor’s office stated in a press release. Officers of the Landsrecherche assisted by an officer of the local police force conducted the search. The officers confiscated computers, a laptop and several documents.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office does not want to comment further in the interest of the investigation.

While the name of Justice Minister Duncan is mentioned at the beginning of the video, no house search was done at his residence or at his office. The search at the IND is most likely inspired by two circumstances. The first one is that the bribery is linked to work and residence permits for “exotic dancers for Bada Bing. The second one is that Illidge mentions in the video the name Udo – most likely a reference to the head of the IND, Udo Aron.

While Illidge remained composed upon his return, he has in the meantime become the target of heavy criticism and online political cartoons. One of them shows the MP’s portrait in the center of a Bada Bing dollar.
Bada Bing dollar with Illidge
Another photo, on Facebook, shows Illidge with the text: “I don’t always accept bribes on video. But when I do I mention my people by name and say f*ck a lot.”

While Minister Duncan did not reply to emails from this newspaper, he used a local gossip website as his mouthpiece for a lengthy expose that basically came down to: the law must be followed and I have no influence on this investigation. The site did not ask the minister one critical question about the content of the bribery video.
At the airport, the Parliament’s President Drs. Rodolphe Samuel kept his reaction low key and declined to say whether there are rules in place that require the suspension of a Member of Parliament who is the target of a criminal investigation. Samuel said that it is up to the competent authorities to investigate the matter.

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