October 26, 2012 1:24 PM
PHILIPSBURG – The Court in First Instance sentenced two drug mules from Suriname to prison sentences of 14 and 12 months respectively. The cases indicate a change in smuggling routes to Europe.
Both smugglers traveled from Paramaribo to Curacao and then to St. Maarten while there is a direct route to Europe from both Suriname and Curacao available.
The two men, 27-year-old Furgin Benito Pengel and 47-year-old Jemmi James Felter, are no longer in St. Maarten. Sometime after their arrest they were deported to Suriname due to a lack of police cells.
Pengel was caught with 1235 grams of cocaine when he arrived on August 20 at Princess Juliana International airport. He had swallowed some bolitas but when this caused him some trouble he had hidden the rest of the drugs “between his pajamas and his underwear” as prosecutor Hans Mos expressed it.
“He knew he was smuggling drugs,” the prosecutor said. The bolitas had to be removed from the defendant’s body through an operation. “It took a long time,” mr. Mos said. “Initially the doctor did not see the need for medical intervention. When the defendant became constipated that situation changed and that operation was not a piece of cake.”
The prosecutor said that Pengel was a classic case of drug smuggling. “St. Maarten is seen as an alternative route for flying to Europe.”
His odd itinerary caught the attention of alert customs officers and they soon found the drugs. The suspect was sent back home when cells were needed to lock up suspects in the Michael and Thelma King murder investigation. The prosecutor demanded 18 months imprisonment, to send a clear message to Pengel that he should not come back to St. Maarten.
Attorney Nerissa de la Rosa said that her absent client’s motive had been to make some money to take care of his ill mother. “
“He went through a life threatening operation and he spent two weeks in hospital. He learned his lesson and takes responsibility for his actions,” she said. The attorney asked the court to take these circumstances into account and to sentence Pengel to time already served.
Prosecutor Mos said that St. Maarten should not become a freeport for drug smugglers and that his demand follows his office’s guideline.
Judge Tamara Tijhuis sentenced Pengel to 14 months imprisonment. “I agree that there has to be a message to society and that a sentence for time already served was therefore insufficient.
The case of the second suspect, 27-year-old Jemmi James Felter was flat-out weird. Felter, 47-year-old farmer arrived at Princess Juliana International Airport ten days after Pengel, on August 30 with two suitcases he later claimed to have received from a neighbor. He was also singled out by customs officers for flying the route from Suriname to St. Maarten via Curacao.
“He wanted to spend two days on a beach in St. Maarten,” prosecutor Hans Mos said. “when customs officers noted that the clothes he has with him would have easily fit in one suitcase he claimed to travel with one suitcase for his clean clothes and one for his laundry. That story was too beautiful to be true.”
Also remarkable: Felter spent about $1,000 on a trip to St. Maarten for a 2-day stay and he carried just $200 with him. It furthermore became clear that Felter is not the brightest bulb on Broadway, reason for the prosecutor’s office to have him evaluated by psychologist Arrindell.
“She concluded that he is no whizz kid. He is a man with a low IQ who has been used. He was set up.”
The prosecutor took these circumstances into account. “He was an easy drug mule and the demand ought to go towards 2 years imprisonment, but considering everything, I will demand 12 months.”
Attorney Geert Hatzmann described his client as socially and economically weakly developed. “He has infantile tendencies and he suffers from an inferiority complex. He does not have the insight that it is weird to travel with two suitcases from someone else. This is a childish man who is not responsible for his actions. There was no intention to smuggle drugs and there is no guilt either.”
The attorney asked the court to dismiss the prosecution against his client.
Judge Tijhuis did not go along, saying that there is proof for intent. “He says nothing about the way he got here. It would have been different if somebody else had bought his tickets and arranged everything for him.”
mr. Tijhuis took the suspect’s situation into consideration, but she followed the prosecutor’s demand of 12 months imprisonment.
Surinamers veroordeeld op Sint-Maarten
PHILIPSBURG - De rechtbank in Philipsburg heeft donderdag twee mannen uit Suriname veroordeeld. Ze waren met een hoeveelheid cocaïne vanuit Paramaribo via Curaçao naar Sint-Maarten gereisd.
Jemmi James Felter (47) werd veroordeeld tot 12 maanden voor het invoeren van ruim drie kilo drugs. Furgin Benito Pengel (27) kreeg 14 maanden gevangenisstraf voor het invoeren van iets meer dan een kilo. Pengel werd op 20 augustus opgepakt op de luchthaven van Philipsburg, Felter arriveerde tien dagen later.
Het openbaar ministerie wees erop dat smokkelaars hun route vanuit Curaçao naar Europa hebben verlegd via Sint-Maarten en dat forse straffen deze zogeheten 'pakezels' ervan moeten weerhouden dit soort misdrijven te begaan. Beide smokkelaars zijn overigens alweer terug in Suriname. Ze werden het land uitgezet vanwege cellengebrek, maar kregen wel ieder een dagvaarding mee.
Nerissa de la Rosa is an attorney at law on Sint Maarten. Geert Hatzmann is an attorney at law firm Bermon Law Office on Sint Maarten.