Masbangu-suspects acquittedPOSTED: 09/19/16 9:08 AM
St.maarten – The Court in First Instance acquitted all suspects in the Masbangu-trial yesterday. The court ruled that there is no proof that the representative of the United People’s party, Roy H, an uncle of party-leader Theo Heyliger, had paid money to four police officers in exchange for their promise to vote for the UP.
The prosecution demanded at the trial on August 31 a 3-month conditional prison sentence against all suspects, community service varying from 150 to 200 hours and the revoking of the right to vote and (for Roy H. only) the right to be elected.
Based on the dossier, the court established that the defendants had asked money from Roy H. and that they did indeed receive this. According to the court it is a fact that Roy H. gave his co-defendants the money with the intention to convince them to vote for the UP.
The court heard from the defense during the trial that this way of influencing voters is common practice on the island and that many voters go to different parties asking for money or goods, without selling their vote. “This practice is highly undesirable and seriously violates the democracy,” the court noted in nits ruling.
This does not mean that it is possible to legally and convincingly prove the charges, the court notes in its ruling. “All defendants have denied that there was an agreement or that any condition was put forth for the payment.” Co-suspects of Roy H. told the court that they felt free to vote for a different party, in spite of the payment and they actually did this.”
This emphasizes, the court ruled, that they did not feel bound to vote for the UP. “All this makes it in the opinion of the court not possible to prove bribery.”
The court therefore acquitted Roy H. (63), Cernick Jan Lionel C. (47), Ashwin Rodney Wilfred M. (45) and Robert Charles Henry J. (65) of all charges.
With the court ruling the story of vote buying and selling – dating back to September 2010, before the elections in that year – comes for the time being to an end.
The case started to unfold in 2010, when Glenda W., a fifth suspect in the case who has in the meantime passed away, went to Chief Commissioner Peter de Witte to complain that she had not received her share of the money that Roy H. paid to her co-defendant Robert J.
De Witte submitted an internal report about the election fraud to the prosecutor’s office on October 28, 2010. Due to understaffing at the National Detective Agency, it took until February 17, 2014 before the case finally came to court. Later that year, the court declared the prosecution inadmissible, because the UP and its leader Theo Heyliger had not been investigated. The Appeals Court overruled this decision last year and cassation at the Supreme Court by three defendants was declared inadmissible.