Illidge and Van den Heuvel face prison time in Bada Bing trial

PHILIPSBURG - The Prosecutor's Office on Wednesday requested 48 months against Bada Bing night club owner Jaap van den Heuvel and thirty months, ten of which are to be suspended, with two years' probation, for former independent Member of Parliament (MP) Patrick Illidge during the first day of hearings in the so-called "Orca" trial.
 
Van den Heuvel (49) and Illidge (49) are the main suspects in a case of bribery in which Illidge accepted bribes from Bada Bing and Lunteren NV's owner for the total amount of US $150,000 between March 2011 and October 2012.
 
In exchange for the money, Illidge was to use his power and influence to favour the Bada Bing owner in ensuring the Ministry of Economic Affairs would grant adapted permits to the nightclub and seek a change in its official registered address from Maho Shopping Centre to Sr. P. Houtman Road in Simpson Bay.
 
Illidge also was to promote extended opening hours and an increase in the number of exotic dancers for Bada Bing and seek the extension of work permits for several female employees. According to the Prosecutor's Office, these are all violations of Article 379 of the Penal Code.
 
Corruption
 
The Bada Bing case was built on a videotape of Illidge apparently accepting stacks of banknotes from Van den Heuvel while the two discuss business permits.
 
The images on the videotape, which was recorded in Van den Heuvel's office on September 30, 2012, and copies of which were obtained by The Daily Herald and the Telegraaf newspaper in the Netherlands, "confirm what is being said in and about St. Maarten, namely, that there is corruption," Prosecutor Gonda van der Wulp said at the start of her closing speech.
 
"The crime of bribery cannot be illustrated any better," she said. "We hear the names of various ministers and civil servants, and for which they can be contacted or what they've already done, and we see money changing hands, during which Illidge is the one who is able to arrange everything."
Former Minister of Justice Roland Duncan and former Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications Romeo Pantophlet were questioned during the investigations in this case.
 
A copy of the video was shown in court, but the quality of image and sound did not allow those present to see clearly, and especially hear, what exactly transpired and what was being said by the two suspects.
 
In the Prosecutor's Office's opinion the brothel owner had run into problems with obtaining permits and had turned to Illidge to use the politician's influence with government, against payment.
 
The meeting was taped by Van den Heuvel as some kind of "insurance policy" to ensure that the politician would deliver. "The blackmailed politician. Denial does not help. This action has fully turned against him," said Van der Wulp.
 
'Getting things done'
 
"I am just asking a parliamentarian ... to arrange that relocation permit after waiting for seven years," Van den Heuvel said during questioning by National Detectives.
 
Illidge admitted to having assisted Van den Heuvel with solving his problems, as a representative of the people. "Due to the structure and shortcomings in the ministries often people and businesses approach parliamentarians to assist them in whatever situation that they might find themselves in, in terms of getting things done or information. Left with no other choice or option, they turn to MPs whom they have voted for," he told the detectives.
 
The Prosecutor said this was a confession. "It was Van den Heuvel's and Illidge's intention to use the latter's influence to get done what Van den Heuvel had not managed to achieve in seven years," Van der Wulp said, adding it was irrelevant that Illidge could not deliver on his promises.
 
Van den Heuvel and Illidge claimed the transaction concerned repayment of a NAf. 50,000 loan to Van den Heuvel, granted in April 2011 "to save his marriage."
 
However, the Prosecutor's Office did not consider a loan very likely, as investigations by the Tax Office had made it clear the Bada Bing owner had withdrawn large amounts from his company's accounts and had used his company credit cards for luxury vacations in New York and Panama.
According to the businessman's declaration, which was made up in September 2011, the estimated value of all his assets, monies and property (rights) had amounted to $3 million. By contrast, Illidge had been indebted, the Prosecutor stated.
 
Blackmail
 
Claims that Van den Heuvel had been commissioned by United People's (UP) party leader Theodore Heyliger to make a videotape recording of independent MP Illidge accepting money to blackmail him into returning to UP to bring that party to power were dismissed by the Prosecutor's Office.
However, Van den Heuvel maintained his version of events. "I was nervous, as I was going to have him hanged," Van den Heuvel told the judge about his reasons to videotape his long-time friend.
 
The Prosecutor found Lunteren and Van den Heuvel guilty of money-laundering and of non-payment of income and turnover tax from 2008 until December 2012 to the amount of more than NAf. 1.7 million.
The Prosecutor also considered it proven that Van den Heuvel had used a forged long-term lease agreement on the Simpson Bay property.
 
Eight charges
 
The indictment against Van den Heuvel consists of eight charges, including membership in a criminal organisation. The Prosecutor's Office is of the opinion that in doing business Van den Heuvel did not care about rules and regulations and had not shied away from using the influence of a politician to achieve his goals.
 
Together with other suspects involved with his company, Van den Heuvel would have been involved in various criminal activities, among them trafficking of women.
 
The Prosecutor's Office was forced to drop the charge of employment of women without work permits, because no such permits were included in the case file.
 
Lunteren NV and its manager K.E.v.d.B. (42) were indicted separately. The company also was charged with involvement in money-laundering, trafficking of women, tax evasion and violation of the ordinance on the employment of foreign labourers.
 
The Prosecutor's Office requested that the Court sentence Lunteren to payment of NAf. 1.5 million and its manager to nine months suspended, with three years' probation and 180 hours of community service.
 
Illidge also was charged with possession of an illegal firearm; a nine-millimetre Ruger. He said he had bought the weapon from current UP party fraction leader MP Franklin Meyers for $400 and stated he had not been aware of the exact stipulations considering the licensing of weapons.
Illidge claimed that as a former minister of the Netherlands Antilles he only would have had to register the weapon. However, the firearm ordinance only makes an exception for (former) ministers where it concerns the carrying of a registered and licensed weapon in public.
 
Trafficking of women
 
Prosecutor Maarten Noordzij addressed the trafficking of women charges. He said he found these charges proven, despite the fact that the women had arrived here with their consent and had said their employer had treated them well.
 
"My company is an example to others in the same branch. Our ladies walk around with big smiles on their faces," Van den Heuvel said in court.
The Prosecutor pointed out that the women had told the National Detectives that their financial situation in the Dominican Republic had left them with no other option but to work in the sex industry.
 
In St. Maarten, the women had to pay back airfare expenses and pay a daily $60 fee for board and lodging, leading to a debt of $7,400 in three months' time, for which they had to hand over up to one third of their income to their employer, Noordzij said.
 
The trial continues today, Thursday, with the lawyers pleading on their clients' behalf.
 
The Daily Herald
 
 
In this case Jaap van den Heuvel is represented by attorney Cor Merx of Cor Merx Legal Services and tax lawyer Gert Bergman of BZSE Attorneys at Law l Tax Lawyers Sint Maarten. 
Patrick Illidge is represented by attorney at law Ralph Richardson of Richardson & Nicolaas and tax lawyer Erik Jansen of BZSE Attorneys at Law l Tax Lawyers.
Krijn van der Brug is represented by lawyer Geert Hatzmann of Bermon Law Office.
 
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