Additional investigation ordered in courthouse embezzlement cases

PHILIPSBURG--A judge in the Court of First Instance has ordered some additional investigations, to be carried out by the National Detectives, in the cases against former office manager at the Court of First Instance in St. Maarten M.J.-C. (61) and her husband R.A.J. (65), it emerged Friday.
  In what is dubbed the “Triggerfish” investigation, J.-C. is charged with the embezzlement of approximately US $1.2 million from the Court’s bank accounts between January 2014 and December 2017, and with the embezzlement of NAf. 153,697 from the Constitutional Court’s bank account. She is also charged with money-laundering allegedly committed between January 2014 and September 7, 2018.
  The fourth charge in J.-C’s indictment mentions the alleged forgery of a money-transfer form from Windward Islands Bank (WIB) between September 1 and September 30, 2016. The final charge includes the allegation that the former civil servant defrauded the Ministry of Justice of the amount of NAf. 50,000 in June 2018.
  Husband R.A.J., who is a pensioner and former station manager of now defunct airline Dutch Antilles Express (DAE), is charged with laundering amounts of $171,160 and NAf. 50,591 between January 2014 and December 2017, a crime he allegedly committed together with his wife.
  Both defendants are also facing claims from the damaged parties. On behalf of the Constitutional Court, attorney-at-law Aernout Kraaijeveld petitioned the Court for full compensation of the damage incurred. The Joint Court of Justice will file claims against the defendants in a civil procedure. The Prosecutor’s Office stated that it will file a dispossession claim against the defendants, but that this case is still under investigation.
  During last week Wednesday’s court hearing, both suspects vehemently denied they had been involved in any wrongdoings pertaining to the embezzlement of money from the St. Maarten Court’s bank accounts.
  During a brief sitting on Friday, the judge announced via video-conferencing from Curaçao with the Prosecutor and attorney-at-law Zylena Bary in the St. Maarten Courthouse that some additional investigations in the alleged crimes were deemed necessary.
  Where the embezzlement of money from the Court’s escrow account was concerned the judge called for additional investigations into the number of cheques that had been cashed by J.-C., in relation to the amounts that were deposited in the account between 2014 and 2017.
  The judge also called for an investigation into the expenses for travel and accommodation of members of the Security Service’s Supervisory Committee during their visits to St. Maarten, which J.-C. claimed were paid with money from the Constitutional Court’s bank account. In this respect, the Judge also wants to know what amounts country St. Maarten contributed.
  In response to the money-laundering charges, both suspects stated during the June 26 hearing that the amounts deposited in their bank accounts in the 2014-2017 period, which amounted to $270,000, were rent income from apartments and from a number of shacks in Cole Bay that belonged to the family.
  The Judge called on the two defendants to cooperate with the investigations and provide more information pertaining to these rent incomes, which included income from an apartment on Front Street, which the couple claimed they had rented out to visiting Joint Court judges.
  Finally, the Judge also ordered the hearing of former judge in St. Maarten Katja Mans, who has since returned to the Netherlands. She will be heard as a witness in connection with the alleged forgery of a WIB money-transfer form.
  The Court wants to know whether Mans knew that the balance in the Constitutional Court’s account was insufficient and whether the judge had given J.-C. her permission to use money deposited by the Prosecutor’s Office in the escrow account to clear the balance, as J.-C. had claimed. The money deposited by the Prosecutor’s Office concerned a NAf. 25,000 fine paid by Jamaroma Lotteries NV.
  The hearings in these cases will continue October 22. The Prosecutor’s closing speeches and the lawyer’s pleadings will also take place then.
The Daily Herald

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