Piranha-trial moved up another month: Attorney: “Shigemoto has no political ambitions”

POSTED: 12/15/14 10:15 PM

St. Maarten – “Shigemoto does not want to become a minister in the next cabinet. He has no political ambitions and he wants to conclude all this as soon as possible. He has been done a great injustice,” attorney Jairo Bloem told the Court in First Instance yesterday morning, after it became clear that the so-called Piranha-trial will not take place in March as previously scheduled, but on May 6 and 7 of next year.

Bloem reminded the court that it adjourned the case on October 10, because the prosecution intended to bring charges in an addition investigation dubbed Piranha-2 and that it wanted to handle both cases together in March. “Now the prosecutor is saying, we’re not going to do that after all.”

With foresight, Bloem asked in October to plan the trial for his client in January of next year, but interim-Judge Smid was unable to honor that request because the court’s agenda for next year is the domain of Judge Mauritz de Kort who will take over from him per January 1.

Bloem furthermore referred to the “years of rancor” against Shigemoto that had according to him resulted in the complaint to the prosecutor’s office. Bloem did not mention the name, but it was clear that he referred to the former head of the Finance Department Bas Roorda. “My client is very incensed about all this.”

Before Bloem’s statements, prosecutor Maarten Noordzij informed the court that the Piranha-2 investigation is “not ready for a decision about prosecuting.” He added that the investigation is not even at the stage where it makes sense to interrogate Shigemoto as a suspect. “Therefore I cannot ask the court today to merge the two cases.”

Noordzij said that the prosecution would continue with Piranha-1 and bring the case to trial on May 6 and 7 of next year. Responding to a remark from Judge Rick Smid that the prosecution announced a trial date for March 11 and 12 of next year in October, Noordzij noted that the agenda is full, because the National Detective Agency is bringing a lot of cases to trial early next year.

Richard Gibson Jr., the attorney for Shigemoto’s co-defendant Roberto G. took the news about the delay in stride. “It is annoying that the court date has moved up another month,” he said.

In Piranha 1, the prosecution accuses Shigemoto and G. of fraud, embezzlement, forgery and money laundering. Shigemoto faces two additional charges: embezzlement in his function as a civil servant and violating the Accountancy Ordinance – the legislation that regulates how government officials handle the state’s finances.

Roberto G. submitted fake-invoices for a total of slightly over 233,000 guilders (approximately $130,000) and Shigemoto authorized their payment, knowing that there was no legal basis to do so, the prosecution charges.

Noordzij said in October that similar suspicions had led to the Piranha-2 investigation, but he did not provide further details.

“I gladly would have handled this case this year but I am not involved in this anymore,” Judge Smid said at the end of the hearing, “This is however taking inhumanly long.”

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