Published On: Thu, May 4th, 2023

Acquittal in De Mos case has potential consequences in St. Maarten

PHILIPSBURG — A ruling from the Court in First Instance in Rotterdam could potentially have consequences for pending high profile appeal cases in St. Maarten, like the one that will determine the fate of suspended parliamentarian Claudius Buncamper.

It is good to keep in mind that judges are independent, so they don’t have to follow a lead provided by near similar cases. Also keep in mind a quote from the latest Progress Committee report. It states that there is increased dissatisfaction among the population because white collar criminality is not punished while other crimes also do not result in incarceration.

The case at hand in Rotterdam is about Richard de Mos, founder of the local political party Hart voor Den Haag (Heart for The Hague).

The prosecution demanded 22 months of imprisonment against De Mos for membership of a criminal organization, passive bribery as a civil servant, violating the oath of secrecy, perjury and human smuggling and/or employing an illegal foreigner. The prosecution also demanded a fine of €8,500 ($9435) and a 4-year ban on holding function in the civil service.

In 2019, De Mos and his fellow party member Rachid Guernaoui were arrested at their homes, their homes and offices were searched and they had to resign as members of the city’s executive council and the city-government collapsed.

Heart for The Hague became the largest political party in 2018 and in the elections of 2022 the party maintained that position.

The charges against De Mos and seven others were based on the fact that entrepreneurs donated more than €100,000 ($111,000) to the party for the 2018 elections in exchange for political influence. The case file is enormous: 15,000 pages and the prosecution produced a demand of 200 pages during the handling of the case.

But Judge Jacco Janssen put the prosecution to shame by throwing out all charges and acquitting De Mos and his co-defendants. The court wondered openly about the question whether entrepreneurs would be daft enough to bribe two people of a brand new party. The court considered chances they would do this slim to non-existent. “It is illogical to choose a new party for buying power. These persons were too unknown, they had no power.”

The court also noted that the donations were made to the party and not to individual persons. “One cannot derive bad intent from donations to a party. Those donations are done with good intentions,” the court ruling states.

The court did not follow the arguments of the prosecution, because it considered its vision too one-sided and lacking appreciation for defendants’ explanations.

“The first question is not who committed a crime but whether a crime was committed at all,” the ruling states.

An expert told the court that there are no rules for donating to local political parties. The court does not consider it its task to find a solution for the lack of rules. “That is up to the body politics. Donors must not be frightened by the possibility that they are committing corruption. They are important for the viability of, especially, local political parties.”

After the ruling De Mos declared that he wants to return to his position in the city’s executive council, where he was until his arrest alderman for Economy, Sport and Outdoor Space but that requires the cooperation of the parties that are currently holding those positions: VVD, GreenLeft, PvdA and CDA. It is currently unclear whether the prosecution will appeal the verdict.


[Publisher’s Note: In the latest development, we have received news that on Thursday, the Public Prosecution Service has appealed against the acquittal on Thursday.]