Judge terminates pretrial detention status – Shigemoto to court after the summer

POSTED: 06/7/13 1:58 PM

St. Maarten – The trial of former Finance Minister Hiro Shigemoto will most likely take place after the summer, Solicitor-General Taco Stein told this newspaper yesterday. However, while the investigation has been completed, a decision about going to trial still has to be taken.

Last Monday Shigemoto appeared in front of the Judge of Instruction where he asked for a change in the conditions linked to the suspension of his pretrial detention.

Shigemoto was arrested on December 16 of last year as a suspect in the Piranha-investigation that also involves 59-year-old Roberto G. The former minister is suspected of money laundering, fraud and forgery. Three days after his arrest the Judge of Instruction suspended his pretrial detention per December 24.

Stein said yesterday that the Judge of Instruction has lifted the suspension and terminated Shigemoto’s pretrial detention status altogether until the possible trial date.

The Piranha-investigation started in 2011, after the former head of the finance department Bas Roorda filed a complaint at the prosecutor’s office and submitted a large number of documents. The Piranha-case focuses on malversation with Usona-funds and regular government money and on the abuse of public tender rules.

Chief prosecutor Mr. Hans Mos said in December that the suspicions are linked to violations of the accountability ordinance (comptabiliteitswet).

This legislation obliges members of the government to put projects worth more than 50,000 guilders (close to $28,000) up for public tender.

In June of last year, after his first week in office, Finance Minister Roland Tuitt said in a Central Committee meeting that his predecessor Shigemoto had broken every rule in the book when he signed a contract with Taxand worth between $11 and $14 million that included a clause that would entitle Taxand to 15 percent of the additional revenue its revised tax system would generate.  The project was not subjected to the public tender process. “You cannot circumvent the rules, even if you have the okay from the Council of Ministers,” Tuitt said on that occasion.

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