Cocaine go-between sentenced to 3 years for old drugs case

POSTED: 12/2/10 12:54 PM

St. Maarten – The Court in First Instance sentenced Curacaolenean Urvin Ignatius Pieternella yesterday to 3 years imprisonment for setting up a drug deal involving 27 kilos of cocaine.
With the sentence a drugs case dating back more than four years to May 19, 2006 has run its course.
The cocaine had an estimated trade value of $190,000 on the island. In Europe, its street value would have been between $1.4 and $4 million according to price estimates recently published in a report by the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drugs Addiction, EMCDDA.
Pieternella fled to the Netherlands in 2006 after police busted other parties involved in the drug deal. On August 5 of this year he was finally arrested in the Netherlands. Judge Mr. M. Keppels dismissed defense attorney Mr. B.B. Brooks’s argument that this arrest had been unlawful because Pieternella had already been detained in 2008 based on a 2006-warrant. At the time the Judge of Instruction ordered his immediate release because the prosecutor’s office had not arraigned the suspect within the legal term.
Mr. Brooks argued at the trial on November 10 that her client should not have been arrested a second time based on the same warrant.
Judge Keppels ruled that the court abstained from giving its opinion about this issue. Procedural mistakes during an arrest ought to be brought up with the Judge of Instruction and not at the trial. A Dutch Judge of instruction ruled that Pieternella’s second arrest was lawful. Mr. Keppels therefore dismissed the request to declare the prosecution inadmissible.
When the police raided Pieternella’s home at the Gladiola Road in St. Peters in May 2006, officers found a large blue suitcase containing 25 packages with cocaine. Three people were arrested, but Pieternella was not among them.
One of the suspects, identified in a police report as Chino (real name Juan Carlos Traslavina), told investigators that one of his co-suspects is called Gurupleta. On the day of his arrest he had been picked up at the now closed Dolphin Casino in Simpson Bay by a man he knew as El Negro and another dark man “who smoked cigars.” The latter was later identified as N.J.G. Merinda.
El Negro is Pieternella’s nickname. Chino gave investigators a detailed report on how the drug deal was supposed to go down. After he had inspected the drugs he went to the Le Grand Marche parking lot where he learned that the prospective buyer, Gurupleta, did not have the money to pay for the shipment. Shortly afterwards he was arrested.
The court ruling contains a detailed report about the activities of an observation team that followed the drug dealers from two o’clock in the afternoon until their arrest around a quarter to six.
The defense objected during the trial against the “structural observation” of the suspects. Currently there is no legal basis for this method of investigating. Judge Keppels ruled that following suspect during one day does not amount to structural observation. The Judge also dismissed the suggestion that investigators had mistaken Pieternella for Merinda.
Mr. Keppels considered that the defendant had acted as a go-between for suppliers and buyers of the cocaine. “He made his home available for the planned transfer of the drugs. He established the contact between the supplier and a buyer. That is a serious crime.”
In 2006 the other suspects involved in the case were sentenced to 3 years imprisonment, and the court ruled it fitting to hand down a similar penalty to Pieternella.

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