No legal grounds for revoking Casablanca brothel permitPOSTED: 01/8/16 6:06 PM
Presentation Chief Prosecutor Ton Maan
St. Maarten – The Public Prosecutor’s Office wants to train locals for the position of public prosecutor, Chief Prosecutor Ton Maan said at a presentation to the Inter-Parliamentary Kingdom Consultation (Ipko) yesterday morning. He also revealed that the government has not honored his request to close down the Casablanca brothel because there are no legal grounds to revoke the permit.
Maan said that in the current makeup, his office has five public prosecutors – who are all from the Netherlands – and six paralegals – of which four are locals.
“Dutch prosecutors are able to look with a bit more distance at cases,” Maan said. “But people also look at us for being Dutch – like we are Europeans who come here to tell everybody how they should do things. But we don’t come here for sun, sand and salaries, as some journalists have written. We come here to contribute to the safety and security of St. Maarten.”
Apart from the prosecutors and the paralegals, the prosecutor’s office has five administrative employees, one financial associate and one bailiff, tasked with serving summonses.
The priorities of the prosecutor’s office are murder and manslaughter, armed robberies and human trafficking and human smuggling. In 2013, 3 people died as a result of violence, in 2014 there were 10 such victims and last year 13.
“This is related to gangs,” Maan said. “There have been ruthless liquidations. We are also faced with a lot of violent armed robberies. In bright day light, while there were cruise ships in port and many people in the center, a jeweler was robbed on Front Street and a policeman was shot to death. That’s what we are dealing with.”
The chief prosecutor said that St. Maarten gets assistance from law enforcement in Aruba and Curacao, from the Royal Dutch Marechaussee and from the Detective Collaboration Team RST.
“We have to break this cycle of violence, but we also have to deal with human smuggling – that is also a field with a lot of victims.”
Maan said that the prosecutor’s office is forced to make choices. Especially human smuggling investigations require a long-term investment of resources. “We have to choose our priorities. Our investigations focus on the structures behind these crimes.”
Ronald van Raak, an MP for the Socialist Party in the Netherlands, asked Maan whether his office had the guts to go after politicians. “Do you manage to tackle politicians?” he asked. “What I miss (in the priorities) is the illegal gambling industry and its influence on politics. Is there enough capacity to investigate the link between politicians, money laundering and the trade in weapons?”
“The guts we do have,” Maan assured Van Raak. “However, tackling politicians is not a goal in itself. The Netherlands has made €22 million available for investigations into undermining criminality. I am not saying that politicians are the undermining factor. We investigate who plays a role in these crimes and we deal with people from the upper world the same as with people from the underworld.”
Maan acknowledged however that his office has insufficient capacity to tackle white collar criminality. “We have insufficient options there. Our focus is on human victims.”
André Bosman (VVD) later said that the numbers prosecutor Noordzij had presented about human smuggling and prostitution were “shocking.” He wondered about the brothel-density on the island. “What is their business model and how do they make their money? Are these brothels maybe a cover for other criminal activities like the trade in weapons?”
Maan said that the brothels are making a lot of money – based on their exploitation model. “We know that there are also lines between the management of brothels in St. Maarten and those in Bonaire,” he said.
Thom de Graaff (D66) asked about administrative measures against brothels that break the law. Maan’s answer offered a shocking insight in this state of affairs. “After the raid at Casablanca, we asked the government to close the establishment. The answer we got back was: there are no grounds to revoke their permit.”
In November of last year, the prosecutor’s office raided Casablanca. The Parrot-investigation against the establishment was conducted together with the prosecutor’s office in the Dominican Republic. The owner and three family members were arrested
The grounds for closing down the place were lacking because local brothels operate based on a permit for a restaurant or café. Based on the law, exploitation is not a reason for closing down such businesses. Hence the plans to subject brothels in the future to specific business permits.
“The permit is used for committing crimes,” Prosecutor Noordzij said. “The permit is issued to a legal entity. The management may be locked up in the house of detention, but that management can be replaced. In the new permit-system, the permit will be suspended as soon as such a business becomes the subject of a criminal investigation.
Maan said that there are also financial measures in the works as instruments to punish brothel-owners that exploit the women in their club after Senator Ruard Ganzevoort (GreenLeft) suggested voiding the debts of prostitutes if they are found to be the victim of exploitation. It won’t be easy, Maan said: “If you look at the contracts, everything is regulated just fine, but we have found side-letters that say something completely different.”