October 20, 2012 10:49 AM
BELAIR--The two-week hearing of the Vesuvius case, the largest criminal investigation ever carried out in St. Maarten, continued Thursday with the Prosecutor's Office closing speech. Prosecutors Gonda van der Wulp and Bart den Hartigh requested Judge Rick Smid to sentence main suspects A.O.W.J. (35) and C.A.R. (30) to life in prison.
The other members of what the Prosecutor's Office is considering a criminal organisation involved with murder, (attempted) manslaughter, drugs trade and firearm possession, are facing prison sentences of between eight and 11 years.
If it were up to the prosecutors C.E.F. (37) will have to spend eight years in jail, D.D.T. (26) and A.S.D. (30) nine years, E.D.W.L. (29) 10 years and E.S.C.M. (35) 11 years.
Den Hartigh said the 12-month investigations into this case had been unique for St. Maarten, and involved between 30 and 40 police officers, who had been working on this case fulltime in 11 countries.
Thirty suspects and 200 witnesses were heard, and 26 persons detained. Twenty houses were searched, and 17 firearms, 600 shells, six bulletproof vests, wigs, masks, pressure guns and silencers confiscated. The US $2 million investigations resulted in a 10,000-page case file.
The two prosecutors, who took turns in reading their 93-page closing statement, consider A.O.W.J. to be the leader in this criminal organisation. He would have led this group together with his brother Amador, who was shot and killed near Under the Sun snack bar on Gladiola Road on April 16, 2011. After his brother's death A.O.W.J. became the "absolute leader."
E.D.W.L. was considered a consultant, and allegedly would also have led his own organisation. C.E.F. allegedly carried out orders, while A.S.D. is considered to have been A.O.W.J.'s advisor and confidant. He is also held for being the keeper of the organisation's "armoury."
C.A.R. allegedly was the group's hit man, carrying out the dirty work. He is also held for A.O.W.J.'s closest associate, taking care of business while he was in jail.
E.S.C.M. would have been involved with the organisation of drug transports and with weapons. D.D.T. allegedly stole cars and kept weapons on behalf of the organisation.
Only A.S.D. and C.E.F. attended Thursday's hearing, which took almost five hours. The other five suspects declined to step into the police vehicle that was to transport them from Pointe Blanche prison to Belair Community Centre, because they felt they were too strictly restrained, attorney-at-law Brenda Brooks told the court.
The suspects had protested against the fact that some of them were handcuffed while others were more strictly restrained. They felt that every suspect should be treated equally, Brooks said.
Judge Rick Smid said that safety was a police matter, and not up to a judge. He further pointed to the fact that defendants have a right to attend their trial, but are not obligated to do so.
Prosecutor Den Hartigh said the incident was typical of the suspects' behaviour during their trial. "They are not cooperating at all, and apparently feel they are above the law."
The large-scale Vesuvius investigations involve the killing of four persons, while several others had been shot at. According to the Prosecutor's Office the violence had emerged in what could be considered a "bloody, drug-related gang war" and a fight over the supremacy in the drug trade in St. Maarten.
In the prosecutors' opinion A.O.W.J. and his brother Amador wanted to take charge of the island's drug trade and submit everyone else involved with drugs to payment of some kind of criminal tax to their organisation.
The organisation of the then owner of Cappuccino Bar, Miguel Arrindell, was also targeted. The establishment on Airport Road is now in other hands.
Arrindell received a shipment of cocaine, which was ripped by A.O.W.J.'s organisation at Princess Juliana International Airport. Arrindell, described as a big man in the St. Maarten drug trade and Amador Jones' fiercest competitor, would only have been able to get his cocaine back against payment.
Arrindell did not accept the two brothers taking control of the import of drugs, and decided, in consultation with among others Eric Lake, that the Jones brothers had to be killed. He hired "Omax B" to do the job.
Amador Jones was killed and his brother was to follow later, but that proved to be a grave miscalculation, because Miguel Arrindell (32) was killed first, on May 25, 2011.
Immediately after Amador was killed, his brother went for revenge. He allegedly told several witnesses that everyone involved with his brother's death would have to die.
Four days after Amador was killed, on April 20, 2011, Kennedy Fergus was shot and hit in his leg with an automatic firearm on A.Th. Illidge Road near the former Tan Tan supermarket. Fergus was shot at by accident. The shooters' real target was Amador Jones' alleged killer. However, Omax B. managed to escape, because he wore a bullet-proof vest and because A.O.W.J's automatic weapon would have malfunctioned.
All suspects except for E.S.C.M. were charged with involvement in this incident, either as shooters or as aids and liaisons.
Miguel Arrindell was shot and killed while he was walking his dog along Waterfront Road. A.O.W.J., C.A.R. and E.S.C.M. were charged with murder and attempted manslaughter in this case, with E.S.C.M. being considered an accessory.
Next on the death list was Arrindell's brother Rodolfo (37), who was shot dead on July 7, 2011, on Fort Willem Road. A.O.W.J. and C.A.R. were charged with involvement in this killing.
The next to lose their lives in this spree of violence were Eric Lake (36) and Kevin Gumbs (30), both of whom were shot and killed in broad daylight at Cat's Shopping Centre on A.Th. Illidge Road on August 17, 2011. A woman working at the centre's beauty salon was shot in her leg.
According to the prosecutor, the gang members apparently accepted civilian casualties as "collateral damage."
A.O.W.J and C.A.R. were also charged with this killing. The Prosecutor's Office dropped similar charges against suspect A.S.D. for lack of evidence.
The amount of violence used in the alleged crimes was high, according to the prosecutors. Several persons were killed "execution-style" and from close range. A long list of confiscated goods testified to the large number of weapons and ammunition found during the investigations.
However, the list did not include two boxes of hand grenades, which A.O.W.J. allegedly would have wanted to use to "blow up" the Cappuccino Bar, as A.S.D. had told the police.
The trial will continue Monday, October 22, at 9:00am, with attorney Geert Hatzmann pleading on behalf of his client C.E.F. Attorney Peggy-Ann Brandon will be speaking on behalf of E.D.W.L. at 10:00am, followed by lawyer Ralph Richardson for E.S.C.M at 2:00pm, and attorney Cor Merx representing A.S.D. at 3:30pm.
Attorneys Marije Vaders and Brenda Brooks will be pleading on behalf of their clients A.O.W.J., C.A.R. and D.D.T., Tuesday, October 23, starting at 9:00am.