Court wants to seize profits from 2007 drugs transportsPOSTED: 01/28/11 12:15 PM
Defendant contests prosecution’s calculation
St. Maarten – The Common Court of Justice wants to seize $265,725.00 from a man who served a prison sentence for importing 30.5 kilos of cocaine to St. Maarten in 2007. Though the defendant was convicted for transporting 30.5 kilos, the prosecutor’s office claims that six earlier and similar transports make it plausible that the real imported amount is around 155.5 kilos, and it used this number to estimate the magnitude of his criminal profits.
Carlos R.G.D., 43, contested the prosecution’s calculation in court yesterday, and said that he was only facilitating the transports and not organizing them for his own account. D. said that he received just $600 per kilo for this.
Court president Mr. F.J.P. Lock said that the drugs were hidden in boxes of Aloë Vera and Ceres soft drinks – products the defendant said he wanted to introduce in the local market. “Given the wholesale price in Curacao and the retail price in St. Maarten these were not profitable transactions,” he said. “It is plausible that these transports all contained cocaine.”
Defense attorney Mr. G. Hatzmann disagreed and asked the court after a detailed plea to put his client’s perceived criminal profits at zero.
“The public prosecutor’s office considers my client as a big fish,” Hatzmann said. “My client is accused of importing 155.5 kilos in just four and a half months with seven transports. Those are big numbers. Does that fit with the fact that my client had to take his children from school because he could not afford the fees anymore? Does it fit with the fact that he has to ask for free legal assistance, that his company has a debt of nearly $70,000 and that he lost his real estate?”
Hatzmann said that the prosecution calculation of the potential profits is not plausible. “Among the seven transports were test transports. The number of transports does not correspond with what other suspects have stated, and to organize seven large transports in four months time is simply not doable.”
The attorney said that before the confiscated transport of October 24, 2007, there had been three test transports. “The relevance of test transports is continuous,” he said. “If you cross the street you have to look every time whether there are cars coming.”
Hatzmann pointed out that another suspect in the case had mentioned four transports, and that the appeal ruling of December 2008 stated that the transport “was prepared by organizing fake-transports first.”
The attorney said that importing 155.5 kilos, of which 72 kilos between May 8th and June 13th of 2007, was “an awful lot,” adding that the prosecution’s calculation was nothing more than guesswork. In the list made by the prosecution there is also a discrepancy in the number of boxes. For one transport, for instance, there are 6 boxes instead of 9 boxes of which contained drugs.
“The intercepted transport was imported in a very amateurish way,” Hatzmann said, “And a witness stated that the drugs were paid after two to three months. It is hard to imagine that my client has been able to import such an amount of drugs for his own account. The calculation is based on one shipment – that is speculation.”
Hatzmann also contested the wholesale price of $3,055 per kilo used by the prosecutor’s office, because several statements in the case file mention totally different figures.
The deductible costs for others involved in the transport are also not plausible, Hatzmann said, indicating that drug mules that swallow cocaine balls make already $1,000 for transporting between one and two kilos. “My client’s transport company was the contact for the drugsworld. He was a go between who received $600 per kilo.”
Hatzmann concluded that the prosecution’s calculation does not hold up against the criterion of plausibility and he asked the court to declare his client’s criminal profits zero.
Solicitor-General Mr. A.C. van der Schans dismissed Hatzmann’s depiction of his client as an amateur on the drugs scene. “Amateurs deal with half a kilo or something like that. The fact is that the defendant has been sentenced for importing 30.5 kilos. That is not amateurism.”
Van der Schans said that the defendant did not have an accurate bookkeeping at his business and that the prosecutor’s office had worked on the basis of “calculated assumptions.”
The solicitor-general said that the amount the prosecution had arrived at is actually quite modest. “I maintain that the defendant has to pay this. Many drug dealers make it appear as if they have very little money, but I ask the court to grant the prosecutions demand.”
The court will pronounce its verdict on February 17 in Curacao. If it sentences Carlos D. to payment and he does not or is unable to comply, he faces an additional two years in prison.