Casablanca brothel suspects remain in jail until trial in MayPOSTED: 03/10/16 7:06 PM
St. Maarten News – Three suspects in the Casablanca human trafficking case remain behind bars at least until their trial on May 25, the Court in First Instance ruled yesterday morning. It was the fourth time defense attorneys asked for the termination or suspension of their detention, but the request fell on deaf ears with the court.
The Casablanca investigation has been dubbed Papegaai for good reason: it shows a remarkable semblance to the Border Bar investigation of 2012. Not only are the suspects accused of human trafficking, they are also accused of robbing the prostitutes that work in Casablanca of their freedom over a period of five years, of extortion and of threats with violence.
David Jonathan E. (31), Jessica Priscilla R. (44) and Augusto Theodore McQuincy R. (38) are maybe not the only suspects that will be in court on May 25; prosecutor Maarten Noordzij indicated that one and possibly two other suspects will be summoned as well.
The investigation is still in full swing. Attorney Shaira Bommel asked the court to hear three security guards as well as the company’s marketing manager Christopher Serter as witnesses. In an earlier stage she asked the court to hear twelve additional women as witnesses too.
Prosecutor Noordzij objected: “There are statements of 35 women in the dossier who declare about being robbed of their freedom. I find it not decent to add another four statements of people who have an interest in making positive statements to protect their employer.”
The prosecutor said that some of these women were recruited in Venezuela with the promise of a job as exotic dancer. But once they were in Casablanca, they were forced into prostitution.
Bommel contested that the witnesses she wants to hear have an interest to protect their employer because they no longer work at Casablanca. “There have been 2,000 women working there; you cannot just select 35 who happen to declare in favor of the prosecution,” the attorney said.
Pleading her case for termination or suspension of her clients Jessica R. and McQuincy R., Bommel said that they have been locked up since November 16 of last year. “There is insufficient proof to continue with the pretrial detention. The women are not saying anything about violence used against them, and their statements are not confirmed by other evidence. All women had a key and a pass.”
Bommel said that there is no evidence of the direct involvement of her clients with human trafficking. “There is no flight or collusion risk and no shocked legal order. In the Bada Bing case there was no shocked legal order and also no pretrial detention.”
The attorney said that McQuincy R. is held in the so-called hostage-cell with five others and that they have just one shower and one toilet at their disposal.
Attorney Sjamira Roseburg said that her client David E. had come back to the island after the death of his father in 2009; David Eustace Sr. was shot to death that year close to Casablanca; the case remains unresolved, not because there are no ideas about who had a hand in the killing, but because of lack of evidence.
Roseburg said that her client supports the management of the company but that he is not involved in the daily management. “Suspects are being locked up too easily,” she said. “This is a third world situation. There is insufficient evidence; my client has a Masters in marketing and he is locked up in the most dangerous wing of the prison. It is not right to apply double standards: detention in one case and no detention in the other one.”
Prosecutor Noordzij noted that this was the fourth request for termination or suspension of the suspects’ detention. “Every time it was rejected,” he said. “We are talking about robbing women of their freedom, about a fine-system, about a debt that only increased, about threats with violence and about extortion.”
The prosecutor said that Casablanca management misled women from underprivileged countries. “They start here with a debt of $3,000 and they pay off with $50 per sexual service. This is exploitation over a long period – five years. The interest of the investigation has to prevail.”
Judge Angela said that there are sufficient indications that the suspects were involved in the crimes they have been charged with and she rejected all requests.
On April 14, the suspects will return to court for a pro forma hearing where the court will assess the progress with the hearing of witnesses.