Dismissal stealing bellboy upsets Westin attorney

POSTED: 09/13/12 1:11 PM

St. Maarten – To the dismay of Westin attorney Wim van Sambeek the Court in First Instance acquitted Julien Conrad S., a 33-year-old former bellboy at the hotel in Oyster Pond of stealing electronics worth close to $ 6,000 from two hotel rooms on April 4.

The defendant stood accused of entering the rooms with an electronic master key. “From the evidence I must have the conviction that nobody else could have had a key with the same code,” prosecutor Dounia Benammar said. “I need to have that conviction, but I don’t know. That is asking for a lot of confidence in the hotel’s key system. There is room for doubt whether this defendant committed the burglaries. In that case I am only able to ask the court for an acquittal.

The bellboy’s attorney, Geert Hatzmann also concluded that his client ought to be acquitted. “The fact that he accessed the room does not prove that he stole the goods,” he said. “The victims did not file a complaint themselves; there is not even proof that these people exist or that they stayed at the hotel.”

Hatzmann furthermore noted that it is impossible to establish whether the reportedly stolen goods had indeed been present in the hotel rooms. “There is also no technical evidence. The stolen goods have not been found.”

Judge Tamara Tijhuis noted that the defendant had not been seen near the rooms, but there is also no proof that he gave the key to someone else. “You had the key with the code that was used to open the doors. But I cannot exclude that there has been a second key with the same code,” the judge said. “It is not certain that the door was opened with your key.”
mr. Van Sambeek was upset about the ruling. “The Westin’s key generating system gives a unique number to each card key. Employees did not know this until this court case, but no two keys are the same. This works the same way all over the world: a hotel room key only works on one door. My client regrets that the police and the judiciary apparently have not investigated the impossibility to produce a second identical key with the key generation system. That would have taken away the doubts the public prosecutor and the court had.”

Mr. Van Sambeek conceded that it is possible to skim electronic cards “But in that case the card holder should have made his key available for that purpose. In this case it has been established that the defendant had the key with him at all times and that was the key that has been used for the burglaries.”

The attorney said that theft is a big problem at the Westin Hotel. “In this case the burglarized hotel guests were part of a large travel company. These people will after this theft not come back to the Westin in St. Maarten. It is therefore hard to say what the damage from this case is for my client.”

The Westin fired S. for urgent reasons on May 24, after it had taken legal advice about the dismissal procedure. The court struck down this dismissal on July 5 and ordered the hotel to keep paying the bellboy’s salary until his contract had been lawfully ended. On the same day the court issued a decision to end the contract per August 1.

In its decision the court rejected the defendant’s position that he had been in the hotel lobby all the time on the night of the burglaries. “That does not exclude the possibility that he gave his master key to a third party to commit the burglaries. S. has not been able to give a single explanation for the fact that the doors have been opened with his master key.”

S. told the civil court that he would not be so daft to let somebody else open hotel rooms with a key registered to his name. The court rejected the argument: “The Westin has explained that the master key was not S.’s personal key, but a key registered under a number that had been given to him shortly beforehand. It is very well possible that S. was unaware that the number would be linked to him.”

The civil court rejected the bellboy’s claim for compensation to the tune of 5,289 guilders ($2,955), for the payment of unused vacation days and for a reference certificate.

 

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