Story by SXM Today Newspaper
GREAT BAY – Former independent parliamentarian Patrick Illidge is guilty of taking bribes from Bada Bing owner Jaap van den Heuvel, the Court in First Instance ruled yesterday.
The court sentenced Illidge to 18 months imprisonment (with 6 months suspended) and banned him from holding office for 5 years.
The court also took away Illidge’s passive voting rights (the right to be elected) for 5 years. “They are going to have a party now in the Netherlands,” Illidge said rather glumly after the ruling.
Illidge’s co-defendant Jaap van den Heuvel received a more severe punishment from the court: 42 months of imprisonment, of which 12 months are suspended. Van den Heuvel did not attend the sentencing hearing. He is currently in the Netherlands.
The court acquitted Illidge, Van den Heuvel and Bada Bing manager Krijn van der Brug of membership of a criminal organization.
“We are extremely satisfied with the verdicts,” press-officer Tineke Kamps said on behalf of the Prosecutor’s Office. “We are going to study the rulings carefully to see whether we are able to do something with them in other cases.”
The court found Van den Heuvel guilty of seven indictments: using a forged a lease agreement for the current location of Bada Bing, bribing Patrick Illidge, directing money laundering through his company Lunteren NV, money laundering (by using a credit card of Lunteren NV), directing trafficking in women, failing to submit tax returns in a timely manner and submitting incorrect tax returns.
The court sentenced Lunteren NV for the same charges – with the exception of bribery – to a fine of 1.5 million guilders (close to $838,000).
Krijn van der Brug, one of the managers of Bada Bing, received a suspended 9-month prison sentence and 240 hours of community service.
Van der Brug’s attorney Geert Hatzmann announced immediately after the ruling that his client would go in appeal. The attorneys for Illidge and Van den Heuvel (Ralph Richardson and Cor Merx) are considering such a move.
During the sentencing hearing the focus was first and foremost on former MP Patrick Illidge. While the court found him guilty of accepting bribes from Bada Bing owner Van den Heuvel, the amount is nowhere near the $150,000 the prosecution mentions in its summons. Instead, the court established that Illidge received $8,500 from Van den Heuvel on September 30, 2012. This transaction is visible on the video Van den Heuvel made that day. Furthermore, the court established that Van den Heuvel paid Illidge in the period preceding this transaction another 30,000 guilders or its equivalent in dollars.
The court dismissed the defense-argument that the financial transactions had to do with the repayment of a loan of 50,000 guilders that Illidge claimed to have extended to Van den Heuvel in April 2011. “That statement is not substantiated with documents and has not become plausible otherwise either,” the ruling states. “The dossier shows that Van den Heuvel had a bank balance in April 2011 of more than €14,000 (at the current rate of exchange $15,400) that he could and did use freely, also for personal purposes.”
The court furthermore concluded from the available evidence that the payments were made “to inspire the suspect to mediate for Van den Heuvel for handling and granting Lunteren’s request for a change of address, an operational permit, a permit for longer opening hours and extended stay for the women who worked at Bada Bing.”
The court notes in the ruling that Illidge violated the guidelines for behavior that applies to his position as a member of parliament. “He has to be neutral in the execution of his duties and treat all stakeholders equally. Granting preferential treatment as Van den Heuvel wanted is prohibited on those grounds.”
The ruling furthermore emphasized the seriousness of Illidge’s crime. “Favoring those who make a gift, damages the interests of those who attempt to obtain a positive government-decision in a lawful way. This could lead to decisions that are no longer taken on objective grounds and it is possible that permits are granted to those who do not qualify form them or to not acting against people or companies that operate without the proper permits. This negatively affects the general interest the government is supposed to serve and it could also result in affecting the public order.”
Illidge said at the trial in February that the negative publicity about the case has caused significant emotional damages to him and his family. “The court finds it plausible that the media-attention in his case has influenced the defendant and his private life. However, the court considers this media-attention as an apparent inevitable phenomenon that occurs in particular in cases with a certain impact. In a small community like St. Maarten, this is quickly the case. In this case, the position the defendant had and the contacts he maintained understandably had an additional attention-attracting effect. The defendant could have and should have been aware of this when he committed the facts at hand.”
The court acquitted Illidge of illegal firearm possession, because, as a former minister of the Netherlands Antilles, he was entitled to have a gun for four years after leaving office. In March 2013, investigators found the Ruger 9 mm browning Kort and 50 rounds of live ammunition during a search at Illidge’s home in Pointe Blanche.
The court nevertheless confiscated the gun, because since October 1, 2014, Illidge is no longer authorized to carry a firearm.