Laveist back to courtPOSTED: 10/27/11 12:32 PM
Supreme Court voids 2010 bribery verdict
St. Maarten / By Hilbert Haar – The Supreme Court voided National Alliance MP Louie Laveist’s 2010 bribery conviction yesterday based on a technicality and sent the case back to the Common Court of Justice. This means that Laveist has to go back to court sometime in the near future for a rerun of his appeal.
On February 11 of last year the Common Court sentenced Laveist to a 5,000 guilders (almost $2,800) fine or 55 days of imprisonment, a 6-month suspended jail sentence, and a 3-year ban on the right to work in the civil service or as a member of the government. The court ruling does not affect Laveist’s right to be a Member of Parliament.
The Supreme Court voided the verdict on a technicality. Based on the code of criminal procedure the appeals court must include the evidence on which it bases a conviction in its sentence. In the Laveist-case, the court failed to do this; instead, it added the evidence in a separate document as an appendix.
mr. G. Spong, who handled the case at the Supreme Court for Laveist, presented four arguments for cassation to the Supreme Court; the failure to include the evidence in the verdict was the first one.
mr. Vegter, the procurator-general at the Supreme Court did not consider the other arguments Spong presented.
Laveist will now have to go through a new trial at the Common Court of Justice; the charges of which he was acquitted will not be brought up again. On appeal, the Common Court acquitted Laveist of forging minutes of the Culture Club Foundation, defrauding the Antillean co-financing organization Amfo of 22,750 guilders (about $12,700), and of employing an illegal hairdresser at barbershop 2.
The Common Court did find Laveist guilty of bribery, though it found no proof that he had accepted $10,000 from A. Bembo or Bemal Enterprises.
However, the court did find proof that Laveist accepted tickets for a flight to Canada from this company in exchange for promoting that Bemal would get the order to equip the new government administration building with furniture or at least to give the company preferential treatment in future tenders for this project.
The court also convicted Laveist for taking a $6,000 bribe from Bargains Unlimited N.V. The company wrote a $6,000 check on December 7, 2007 for Laveist’s Culture Club Foundation. Three days later the company sent a letter to the Executive Council requesting several work permits.
“The Executive Council reacted in part positively to the request, in spite of the fact that there was a different advice (from the labor department – ed.),” the appeals court ruled last year.
Laveist had said at his trial in January of last year that the Bargains Unlimited director had approached him about the work permits, that he brought the matter up in an Executive Council meeting, and that he asked Bargains Unlimited for a donation to the Culture Club Foundation.
The court concluded that Bargains Unlimited made the donation to achieve that Laveist promoted the granting of the work permits.
Achken Roberto R., who was the president of the Culture Club Foundation at the time, was also summoned to court in February 2009 charged with forging the Culture club foundation minutes, with defrauding Amfo and with taking bribes from Bemal enterprises. However, R. did not appear in court that day and the charges seem to have disappeared into thin air.