ORCA ruling expected on 6 March

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - Over two days, the Court of First Instance heard arguments being presented by the lawyers representing Patrick Illidge and Jaap van der Heuvel in the so called "ORCA" case.
 
The former Member of Parliament is being charged with bribery from the owner of Bada Bing, Jaap van der Heuvel to the tune of some 150,000 dollars.
 
Mr. Illidge is also being charged with the possession of an illegal fire arm.
 
Jaap van der Heuvel expressed remorse for having to put Mr. Illidge in the position that he now finds himself in.
 
"My life is ruined. I never got a chance. I have done nothing wrong. This atrocity I wish to no one," former Member of Parliament (MP) Patrick Illidge said Friday during the final day of hearings in the so-called Bada Bing case.
 
Illidge said his political career had been over ever since he was accused of involvement in bribery.
 
As chairman of Parliament's Justice Committee, he had been instrumental in providing the Prosecutor's Office with more tools to investigate cases, he said. "Many politicians did not want that bill, but I championed that bill," he told the judge. Illidge is facing 30 months in prison, 10 of which are to be suspended, with two years' probation.
 
Referring to the charge he had been carrying an illegal firearm, Illidge said that as a former minister he was entitled to carry a gun. "It is not about perception, but about the truth," he said.
 
The embattled and emotional politician said he had taken an oath as Island Council member, state secretary, minister and MP "to satisfy the people."
 
Co-suspect Bada Bing owner Jaap van den Heuvel, who is facing 48 months on eight charges, also addressed the Court and said that "messing around" with the video showing him and Illidge in what seems to be a case of bribery had resulted in Illidge and club Manager K.E.v.d.B. sitting next to him in front of the judge.
 
"I am in deep shame for that," said Van den Heuvel, who vented his dissatisfaction and "anger" with the way in which the Prosecutor's Office had handled his case.
 
Bada Bing's manager, who has a background in hotel management, told the Court he was innocent of trafficking women. "Have I really done something that is prohibited?" he wondered, pointing out that the employment of foreign women in brothels is sanctioned by government licences and permits.
 
"I am man enough to take the blame, but I have done nothing wrong," he said. The prosecutor had requested nine months suspended, with three years' probation and 180 hours of community service.
 
Friday's hearing resumed with prosecutors and lawyers exchanging a second round of arguments. Responding to statements that the Prosecutor's Office had been looking at this case "through Dutch eyes," Prosecutor Gonda van der Wulp said this was not the case.
 
"Politicians should be guided by the general interest and not by the interests of individual voters or their own interests," she said, "especially when this happens against payment."
 
Illidge's attorney, Ralph Richardson, subscribed to the conclusions on this subject as mentioned in the Wit-Samson integrity report titled "Doing Things Right," but said individual interests also could be part of the general interest.
 
"MPs are entitled to jump into the breach for individuals such as senior citizens who do not get their pensions or people who have lost their Dutch citizenship. The practice may be different in Holland, but here, people prefer going to their elected representative rather than seeing a lawyer," said Richardson.
 
He said it seemed like the Prosecutor's Office had been put under pressure from the Netherlands "to do what they want and not do what they are supposed to do. The Dutch Parliament wants us to order the Prosecutor's Office to walk around with a very sharp sword."
 
Answering to pleadings concerning Van den Heuvel's alleged tax crimes, the prosecutor agreed that failure to file profit tax had not been included in the indictment, which led to a new, reduced NAf. 1 million fine for his Lunteren NV company.
 
The Prosecutor's Office rejected pleadings by attorney Cor Merx to declare the case against Van den Heuvel and Lunteren inadmissible as insufficiently substantiated and motivated.
 
Quite some time was devoted to the women-trafficking allegations. Prosecutor Maarten Noordzij admitted that the women at Bada Bing were not as gravely abused as those who were exploited by the owner of Border Bar (Sunset Retreat) erotic entertainment club in Oyster Pond.
 
Owner Ignacio Priest was sentenced in March 2012 to 54 months, 18 of which were suspended, with two years' probation for trafficking and exploiting seven women from the Dominican Republic who were forced to work as prostitutes in his brothel. The Court also had considered it proven that Priest had detained his female employees unlawfully by holding them behind lock and key inside their quarters outside the establishment's opening hours.
 
The judge enquired why no local women were recruited for work at St. Maarten's adult entertainment centre. Attorney Geert Hatzmann wondered why the Prosecutor's Office did not launch a large-scale "Eros" investigation into women-trafficking at all brothels, casinos, bars and "sleazy rendezvous hotels" here.
 
Noordzij said that in Van den Heuvel's case, the investigations into women-trafficking followed from the bribery investigations.
The Court will give its decisions on Friday, March 6.
 
The Daily Herald

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