PHILIPSBURG–The Prosecutor’s Office called for severe penalties in the appeals of the so-called “Papegaai” and “Gier” cases which were heard by the Joint Court of Justice on Thursday.
The Prosecutor had filed for appeal in these cases, as he objected to the acquittals of proprietors and management of Casa Blanca and Hypnotic adult entertainment centres on charges of deprivation of liberty. Besides, he found the punishments for human trafficking, allegedly committed between 2010 and 2015, too light.
In his closing speech, the Solicitor-General said the Prosecutor’s Office objected to the discrepancy between the Prosecutor’s demand and the imposed sentences.
“If you read the sentence in the verdict, the conclusion is justified that the enormous difference between the demand and the imposed punishments can be traced back to the assessment of the punish-ability of the proven human trafficking against the background of the situation in St. Maarten and the political context,” the Solicitor-General said.
According to the Solicitor-General, the main reason for the Court of First Instance to impose milder sentences was that the Court found that suspects’ acts could not be separated from the facilitating role of government and its absence when it comes to supervision and inspection.
The Prosecution objected to the fact that the suspects in this case would “criminally” benefit from possibly deficient or failing government supervision.
“They wanted to deceive regulators … and deliberately exploited women for their own gain. It cannot be that the Court provides compensation in considering that long-term prison sentences are not justified due to insufficient government supervision. A certain degree of guilt is thus removed from the perpetrators by the Court and implicitly parked somewhere else as a sort of state responsibility. That cannot be the intention,” the Solicitor-General said.
Management of Casa Blanca in Oyster Pond were convicted of involvement in human trafficking, but acquitted of deprivation of liberty, on April 4, 2017.
Managing director Augusto T.M. Reiph and his sister, assistant manager Jessica P. Reiph, were both sentenced to two years, one of which was suspended, on two years’ probation.
Casa Blanca N.V., its manager and assistant manager were each ordered to pay a fine of NAf. 15,000 for non-payment of turnover and profit taxes. Jessica Reiph was also convicted of illegal firearm possession.
Four members of the family operating the king-size brothel are being prosecuted in the appeal case for human trafficking, illegal restraint and possession of illegal firearms. They also have to answer to charges of a number of tax crimes.
The former operator of the now defunct Hypnotic Hotel and Entertainment N.V. in Sucker Garden and former secretary at Casa Blanca Mayline J. Peterson was sentenced on February 7, 2018, to 24 months, 12 of which were suspended, on two years’ probation, for the trafficking and exploitation of a number of women working in these two establishments.
The lesser Court found her guilty of trafficking women and of illegally employing 27 women from Venezuela, Colombia and the Dominican Republic at Hypnotic between January 1 and October 24, 2016.
She was also found guilty of trafficking and exploiting women at Casa Blanca, where she worked as a secretary from February 1, 2010, to January 26, 2015, but was acquitted of deprivation of liberty of the sex workers involved.
Also on Thursday, the Prosecutor’s Office considered the charges proven and demanded long prison sentences. The Prosecution found it legally and convincingly proven that a large number of women were exploited for the financial gain of the adult entertainment centre’s owners and managers.
The Prosecutor’s Office requested six years in prison for Manager Reiph and five years and six months imprisonment for his sister. Both defendants also would have to pay NAf. 200,000 in fines for tax crimes, or spend 365 days in jail in case of non-compliance, if it were up to the Prosecution.
The Solicitor-General called on the Court to sentence owner of the Casa Blanca building Calma J. Priest to four years. He called for confirmation of the verdict of assistant manager and family member David J. Eustace, who was sentenced by the Court of First Instance to 342 days in prison.
Casa Blanca has to pay a fine of NAf. 30,000, according to the Prosecutor’s Office, which called for Peterson’s conviction for human smuggling and illegal employment, for which she should be sentenced to three years.
Defence lawyers pleaded for their clients’ acquittals, denying the charges of human smuggling, exploitation and deprivation of liberty.
Attorney Shaira Bommel claimed that government is exploiting the clubs and the women working there in demanding “astronomic” amounts for permits. “The fees have even been increased,” she stated.
Peterson’s lawyer Geert Hatzmann did not criticise the lesser Court’s verdict where the interpretation of the facts and the implementation of the correct criteria for the assessment for trafficking of women was concerned.
He said government’s “abrupt” halt in issuing permits for exotic dancers had put his client’s back against wall, as she had run into very serious financial difficulties.
Prior to mid-December 2015, his client had always arranged work and residence permits for her employees, Hatzmann said in calling on the Court to declare the Prosecutor’s Office’s case against his client inadmissible.
Tax lawyer Richie Kock filed objections against the turnover and profit tax evasion charges and stated that his clients had not deliberately failed to file taxes. “It was mere sloppiness,” he told the Court in informing Judges that taxes had been filed March 13, 2017.
The Joint Court will present its decisions in these cases October 15.
Bron: Daily Herald