Money laundering suspect back to trial in February

POSTED: 11/22/12 1:34 PM

St. Maarten – Fernando Jose M. M. was arrested on August 2 based on a tip from American law enforcement. Investigators found $690,000 in cash in his home, partly stashed in a washing machine, and a hunting rifle and a pistol with live ammunition. Yesterday the 44-year-old Venezuelan appeared in the Court in First Instance where his trial was postponed until February 27 at the prosecution’s request. The basic charges against him are money laundering and firearm possession.

“This is a complex case and the prosecution wishes to investigate it well,” prosecutor Georges van den Eshof said. For the investigation the prosecutor’s office has filed requests for judicial assistance with authorities in France, Portugal, Curacao and Venezuela.

The prosecutor said that during the search of the defendant’s house identity papers were found that seem to be related to “an old investigation of the detective collaboration Team RST – a drugs investigation. We want to compare DNA of the defendant with evidence in that case.”

While it did not become entirely clear yesterday, the drugs case the prosecutor referred to is probably the Snowflake investigation. This investigation was about the smuggling of more than 600 kilos of cocaine from Colombia via Curacao and St. Maarten to Europe. The main suspects in that investigation, Hector Miguel Arrindell and his brother Rodolfo were both murdered last year by Omar Jones and Carlos Richardson, the main players in a rivaling drugs gang. Jones and Richardson are currently serving life sentences. The prosecution was declared inadmissible in the Snowflake trial because an RST-officer had ante-dated a report in the file.

Attorney E.P. Sulvaran asked the court to suspend his client’s pre-trial detention. “He is a large landowner in Venezuela and he has two businesses to attend to.”

mr. Sulvaran said that his client is prepared to hand in his passport and to deal with his business interests via phone and internet. The attorney also asked the court to hear two police officers as witnesses. Both requests were granted by Judge Tamara Tijhuis.

But the judge did not go along with the request to suspend the defendant’s pre-trial detention. She cited the interest of the investigation as the main reason and said that the business interests Mr. Sulvaran referred to had been insufficiently substantiated.

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Money laundering suspect back to trial in February by

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