Mega-embezzler may just get community service – No place in prison to execute sentences

POSTED: 09/5/13 2:19 PM

St. Maarten – A man who embezzled almost $220,000 in just 27 months from the Westin Hotel is facing a completely conditional prison sentence and community service because there is no place for him in the Pointe Blanche prison.

Prosecutor Gonda van der Wulp had a prison sentence of 4 years in mind. “But if I ask for an unconditional prison sentence I know that it will not be executed,” she told the court. “There is no space.”

Judge  Koos van de Ven appeared flustered with this announcement and asked for a clarification. The prosecutor added that currently only suspects that are in pretrial detention and end up with a conviction are serving their sentence. Sentences for defendants that are not detained at the time of their trial cannot be executed. “There are still people walking around free with a conviction for armed robbery to their name,”  Van der Wulp said.

The prosecution demanded a 24-month conditional prison sentence with 3 years of probation. The defendant also has to do the maximum of 240 hours of community service and complete this task within ten months after the verdict has become irrevocable.

Anutha Chevan G., 38, was the operations manager at the Westin Hotel. He allegedly used a credit card the company had put at his disposal to transfer huge amounts of money to his personal account. While the embezzlement began in 2008 (or in 2009, as the defendant claimed) the Westin only got wise to the scheme in 2012, when the defendant was arrested.

G. told the court that he had given most of the money to the company’s accountant. “I did not transfer any money, I do not have an offshore account or any assets, but I did take some of the money for myself,” he said.

There is no proof that the defendant gave any of the money to the accountant, who has in the meantime left the island. The defendant told investigators that he was frustrated because of the low salary he received as an operational manager, while he had to work very hard for that money.

Prosecutor Van der Wulp noted that the defendant was authorized to handle accounts at the Westin. “He was authorized to satisfy clients, but he was of course not authorized to embezzle money. All transactions have been done with the defendant’s credit card. It is not credible that this was the idea of the accountant. It is more likely that the accountant discovered what was going on and that the defendant gave him some money.”

The prosecutor said that G. lived well and that he drove an expensive rental car.

Attorney  Jairo Bloem acknowledged that there is proof for embezzlement. “But my client did not do this all by himself. The idea came from someone else.”

Bloem noted that the investigation was already complete 18 months ago and that the fact that it had taken so long to bring the case to court ought to be considered a mitigating circumstance.

The court will pronounce its verdict on September 25.

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