Prosecution inadmissible in election fraud trial: Class justice, judge rules

POSTED: 08/26/14 7:08 PM

St. Maarten – The Court in First Instance accused the Public Prosecutor’s Office of class justice in its ruling in the election fraud case yesterday, and revealed that United People’s party leader Theo Heyliger deposited $3 million of his own money in the election coffers of his party for the elections in September 2010.

The court declared the public prosecutor inadmissible in the prosecution of five suspects in the election fraud trial because it failed to investigate the role of the United People’s party and its leader Theo Heyliger. The court ruling contains a scathing assessment of the way the prosecutor’s office handled the investigation. Judge Koen Luijks left no doubt in his considerations that the four remaining defendants (the fifth one passed away in June), and the UP and its leader were involved in the election fraud in September 2010.

Roy H., an uncle of UP party leader Theo Heyliger, Ashwin Rodney Wilfred M., Cernick Jan Lionel C. and Robert Charles Henry J. all left the court without a conviction to their name, even though the message the court conveyed contained little sympathy. “Protecting the defendants is extremely unsatisfactory because there are concrete indications that they committed a punishable act.”

However, the court declared the prosecution inadmissible, “because a decision to prosecute may not be taken randomly or violate the rule of law that equal cases have to be treated equally. Acting against these rules of law is unjust.”

The court expressed its dissatisfaction with the decision by the prosecution to exclude the United People’s party and its leader Theo Heyliger from its investigation. “In this case the prosecution did not only abandon the criminal prosecution of (the leadership of) a political party, but it did not even make an effort to establish the role of (the leadership of) the United People’s party, while the dossier contains more than sufficient pointers to start a criminal investigation into this role.”

Roy H. told investigators that he was accountable to party leader Theo Heyliger when he gave money to one of the suspects on September 16, 2010. “In the opinion of the court it is therefore incomprehensible that no effort was made to invite Theo Heyliger for an interrogation to the office of the National Detective Agency.”

The court ruling quotes from information gathered by the CIE (Criminal Intelligence Unit) that shows that Theo Heyliger deposited $3 million from his own money into the election coffers of the UP in 2010. “Several statements in the dossier imply that the UP was busy distributing money from a building at the Ground Dove Road in Pointe Blanche. The prosecutor also assumes that the (leadership of) the UP party has given money, by naming the suspect Roy H. in the summons as representative of the UP.”

Judge Luijks repeats in his considerations that he finds the decisions taken by the public prosecutor incomprehensible. That the investigation had to be kept small due to capacity problems at the National Detective Agency is of no concern to the suspects, the judge ruled. “The country St. Maarten has to provide a sufficiently equipped National Detective Agency.”

Given the time it took to complete the investigation and bring the case to court – from September 2010 until February 2014 – “it must have been possible to do a criminal investigation into the involvement of (the leadership of) the UP party,” the court ruled. “This investigation has not been done and that is wrong. By only prosecuting the vote-sellers and the suspect who acted as the representative of the party, the public prosecutor’s office has “at least created the semblance that the decisions to prosecute are based on class justice.”

The court decided to declare the prosecution inadmissible, “because this sanction on the violation of equal treatment and on the ban on arbitrariness better serves the general prevention that (the leadership of) political parties will not buy votes. If (the leadership of) a political party does this nevertheless, it may rest assured of a criminal investigation by the Public Prosecutor’s Office.”

The court ruled that declaring the prosecution inadmissible offers more guarantees for the extermination of the practice of buying and selling votes in St. Maarten than the criminal judgment of the suspects almost four years after the facts were committed. A conviction of the suspects offers according to the court insufficient guarantees for the prevention of election fraud in Sint Maarten.

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