Jimmy Chaou sentenced for money laundering, Souliman El Bouzaidi summons void.

POSTED: 11/20/14 11:33 PM

St. Maarten – The Court in First Instance sentenced Jimmy Wilhelmus Chaou to an 8-month prison sentence and a 15,000 guilders fine for money laundering and failing to report the amount of cash he was carrying when he arrived at the Princess Juliana International Airport on February 14.

Chaou, 27, traveled together with Souliman El Bouzaidi, a 33-year-old Belgian of Moroccan descent. Between them, they had 207,000 guilders in cash.

The defendants were not present in court, because they were released in February after the Judge of Instruction ordered their transfer from the police station to the Pointe Blanche prison within 2 times 24 hours. When this did not happen, the two men were immediately released and they left the island.

The prosecutor’s office sent an international request for judicial assistance to the Netherlands and Belgium, but in both cases the authorities failed to serve the court papers because the defendants were not present on the address where they are registered. El Bouzaidi’s address turned out to be a mere mail-address at a social cultural center in Antwerp.

Judge Rick Smid declared El Bouzaidi’s summons void, because the required six weeks between the attempt to serve the summons in Belgium and the court date had not expired yet. Attorney Shaira Bommel therefore only defended the case of Jimmy Chaou.

Prosecutor Karola van Nie told the court that the case has many characteristics of money laundering. The two men behaved nervously upon their arrival at the airport, they traveled together, they initially denied they had anything to declare and they had hidden a large amount of cash in a rolled up pair of trousers. Altogether, customs found $113,650 in their possession.

Furthermore, Van Nie said, the money was mostly in $50, $100 and €500 banknotes. “That fits with the criminal circuit.”

Chaou first declared that the money was for personal use and that it stemmed for the sale of his car rental company. Later he said that someone had given the money to him to buy a couple of $40,000-watches in St. Maarten. Chaou and his travel companion are both unemployed, and they lived in their respective countries on social benefits.

Van Nie said that Chaou’s car rental company was a front, established as a British Limited Entity in Roosendaal and that it had been sold for just €500. Chaou’s family has a history of drugs-related crimes.

The two men claimed that they had received most of the money from the owner of a construction company in Roosendaal. “He was supposedly making a huge income from building a villa for someone with an Arab name in Spain,” Van Nie said, indicating that this income was between €20,000 and €30,000 per month, while the company’s books showed no costs for building materials.

The contractor also had once bought 296 Blackberry smartphones, a deal that supposedly left him a profit of $96,000.

The prosecutor considered the charges proven and demanded a 12-month prison sentence, and a 20,000 guilders fine. The money the men had with them is confiscated.

Attorney Bommel focused on the origin of the money. “My client had too much money with him, but there is no evidence for money laundering. He did not give an incredible explanation for the money and there is no proof that the money stems from a crime. They did not know from each other how much cash they were carrying and they deny that it stems from criminal activities.”

Bommel said that the contractor who had given the money to Chaou and El Bouzaidi is living in a luxury villa and that it is quite possible that he had such a large amount of money at his disposal.

Judge Rick Smid however, considered the charges proven. “The origin of the money is completely inexplicable. Those stories do not check out at all, they are fables.”

The court sentenced Chaou to 8 months of imprisonment and a 15,000 guilders fine – and 110 additional days of imprisonment in case of non-payment.

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