Buncamper-trial moves to January: Attorneys ask court to declare the prosecution inadmissiblePOSTED: 09/16/15 11:06 PM
St. Maarten –The Buncamper-case reached a critical stage yesterday and it remains to be seen whether there will be a trial at all against the former Minister of Public Health Social Development and Labor at all. The decision is in the hands of Judge Peter Lemaire, who will rule next Wednesday on the most far-reaching request from the defense to declare the prosecution inadmissible in both cases it has brought against the ex-minister and her husband Claudius.
The prosecution has asked the court to declare it inadmissible in the second summons against both Buncampers, but to continue with the prosecution of Sint Maarten Building Supplies (SBS) director Ivan H. for money laundering.
The court set a tentative date for the trial on January 13 of next year.
Yesterday morning the Buncampers, Eco Green Director Theodore Oniel Walters and SBS-Director Ivan H. appeared in court. A fourth suspect, retired notary Francis Gijsbertha was absent for medical reasons. Judge Lemaire handled the case via videoconferencing from his office in Curacao.
Ivan H.’s attorney Geert Hatzmann was the first to present preliminary arguments. The prosecution has charged his 47-year-old client with forging a commercial lease agreement between Eco Green and SBS in December 2008, forging a deed of sale of the right of long lease in December 2013, and membership of a criminal organization.
During a search at the house of the Buncampers on June 26, prosecutor Gonda van der Wulp took pictures of what later turned out to be confidential correspondence with their attorney. The prosecutor’s office took Van der Wulp off the case and replaced her with Dounia Benammar. Hatzmann argued that the photographs have also affected his client and he therefore asked the court to declare the prosecution also inadmissible in this case.
The Schutz standard holds that a suspect cannot call on procedural violations when those violations have been committed against another suspect. Hatzmann asked the court for a more flexible interpretation of this standard. “Just because the house search took place in the house of the Buncampers and not in that of my client, the violations have no consequences for him,” Hatzmann said.”
The attorney furthermore noted that the prosecution pretends that the second summons is about a completely different case. “That is a desperate attempt to save the case,” he said. The prosecution knows that this is the same case. If inadmissibility applies to the second summons for the Buncampers, it should also apply to the first summons for my client.”
Attorney Jairo Bloem asked the court to declare the prosecution inadmissible, not only for the second summons, but also for the first one.
“Many other cases would have been dealt with in the context of tax collection,” he said. “The Buncampers are being prosecuted because Buncamper-Molanus is a politician.” Like at a court hearing in June, the attorney focused on tax evasion. “First you do a fiscal investigation, then you come to an agreement and if that does not work out you go to court.”
In June however, Judge Maria Paulides corrected Bloem’s position that the case is about tax evasion, saying: “That is not the charge. It is about money laundering.”
The attorney mentioned nine procedural violations that have been committed to the detriment of his clients. The first one is that the prosecutor’s office continued with investigative actions after it had declared that the dossier was complete. Then there is the infamous house search at the Buncamper-residence on June 26 whereby prosecutor Gonda van der Wulp took pictures of documents that later turned out to fall under the attorney-client privilege. (See related article about the explanation given by the prosecutor’s office on page 3).
Bloem said that apart from the prosecutor one of the RST-members at the search had also taken pictures. “Where are those pictures and who saw them?” he asked. “You cannot repair this by taking the prosecutor off the case. The prosecutor’s office says that there are Chinese walls, but it is one. What one prosecutor does can therefore also be attributed to other prosecutors.”
Prosecutor Dounia Benammar contested that the concept of an indivisible prosecutor’s office does not mean that actions of prosecutors can be attributed to their colleagues. “You say now with certainty that others also took pictures, but the officer has assured me that she did not do that. You do not have to believe me based on the color of my eyes, but on my oath of office.”
When Bloem wanted to bring some more arguments to the table, Judge Lemaire cut him short and when the attorney initially did not heed that call, the judge snapped: “You keep your mouth shut.”
Buncamper-Molanus, her husband Claudius, retired notary Gijsbertha, Oniel Walters and Ivan H., are all accused of membership of a criminal organization. The vehicles they used for their alleged criminal activities are the bogus company Econ Green NV and SBS. The objectives of this criminal organization were, according to the prosecution, committing forgery, intentionally filing incorrect or incomplete tax returns and intentionally destroying evidence.