Colade criminal case to be heard September 26

PHILIPSBURG--Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunications (TEATT) Stuart Johnson’s policy advisor Regina Labega and East Caribbean Destination (ECD) Management Company managing directors Fabian Badejo and E.A.I.F. will head to court on September 26 to answer to charges of embezzlement in employment, theft, forgery and tax evasion.
 
The Prosecutor’s Office still plans to try the case in court. The Colade case involves alleged embezzlement, theft and forgery committed at the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau (STB) and ECD Management Company several years ago. Labega was the head of STB at the time.
 
Investigators sent letters to TEATT Ministry last year with requests for additional documentation about the case being investigated. Several boxes of files were ultimately made available for the Prosecutor’s Office. Documents included a forensic audit conducted by the ministry on STB and its New York office.
 
The suspects were arrested May 30, 2016, based on “complaints” filed by then-head of the Finance Department Bas Roorda in November 2010, and released three days later. Detectives have been busy with the investigation into staff working at STB for quite some time. National Detectives conducted house searches at five different locations on October 15, 2015.
 
The investigation resulted in a number of sub-investigations, which led to an extensive case file. Among charges is the embezzlement of US $142,000 in payments to ECD from an account at J.P. Morgan Chase Bank in New York which were not meant to cover the operational cost of the New York Tourist Office (NTO) or for activities and expenditures directly related to the North American market.
 
The suspects are also charged with money-laundering to the amount of $140,000 and with embezzlement of almost $27,500 at the Tourist Bureau between December 3, 2008, and October 21, 2010, by using Chase Bank cheques for other purposes. LaBega will also have to answer to allegations that she committed forgery in writing a job letter.
 
All defendants are also suspected of membership in a criminal organisation between September 2008 and June 2011, aimed at committing crimes such as embezzlement and evasion of profit, income and wage tax.
 
Roorda filed a criminal complaint against LaBega, Tourist Bureau head of Marketing Edward Dest and civil servant L.K. As a result of the complaint, former Minister of Tourism Franklin Meyers suspended Dest and LaBega on November 3, 2010.
 
He withdrew their suspensions on December 2, 2010, as there was lack of evidence of any wrongdoing, he said at the time. The complaint referred to an account at Chase Bank in New York with money to fund the NTO on Fifth Avenue in New York City to promote tourism to St. Maarten in North America.
 
The office received a monthly Government contribution of $100,000 for marketing purposes in what was called the “essential market.” However, it emerged that money from this account had been used for other purposes.
 
The Daily Herald
 

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