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Published On: Mon, Jun 11th, 2018

Court allows hearing of witnesses in Emerald-trial

Emerald investigation

PHILIPSBURG – Attorney Sjamira Roseburg asked the court on Monday permission to hear twelve witnesses in preparation for the trial against her client, member of Parliament Frans Richardson, who is charged with taking $370,000 in bribes from Checkmate Security director O’Neal Arrindell and with tax fraud.

The court agreed with most of Roseburg’s requests. Checkmate Security Director O’Neal Arrindell tops the list; on December 15, 2016, Arrindell told investigators that he had extended a loan to Richardson, but the public prosecutor thinks that the $370,000 that ended up in the MP’s bank account in two installments was a bribe.

Mingo involved Richardson in the Devcon dredging project through email correspondence. The attorney told the court she wants to hear from Mingo why he copied Richardson in the emails that led the prosecution to conclude that the MP has to be illegally involved with Devcon.

Other witnesses the court allowed are Anthony Carty (director of the Bureau Telecommunication and Post and Richardson’s business partner in the company PRE), bank employees from First Caribbean and Scotia Bank, Pamela Carty-Gordon of Master Accounting (the accountant of PRE), Chief Inspector Tina Trinidad van Grinsven of the Tax Inspectorate, a second expert from the tax office and an officer of the anti-corruption task force.

Roseburg also asked for the bank statements from an account Arrindell holds at the National Bank of Anguilla.

The attorney’s final request was to handle her client’s trial apart from the trial against Mingo and Arrindell. The court did not refuse this outright, but ruled that a decision about this matter will be left to the trial-judge.

“My client wants a fair trial,” Roseburg said. “Up to now he has not had it yet; it seems to have become a trial by media. In the Netherlands he seems to have been convicted already.”

The attorney emphasized that she is not asking for a trial behind closed doors. “As a member of Parliament, my client has no problem whatsoever to present his take on the case in public. In a public hearing it will certainly become clear in which context the charges have to be  seen.”

Roseburg said that a combined handling of all cases could lead to tunnel vison and  a dismissal of alternative scenarios. She furthermore noted that the investigation is incomplete and that the prosecution has drawn incorrect conclusions.

O’Neal Arrindell’s attorney Niels van der Laan noted that The Netherlands has made €22 million available for the anti-corruption task force, but not a penny for legal protection of suspects. “It is an unequal battle,” he said.

Van der Laan criticized the summons because it speaks of “approximately” 300 forged invoices and of “approximately” $8 million as the amount that was taken from the harbor companies. He asked for a specification of all invoices the prosecution has brought into play and to indicate which ones are forgeries and which ones aren’t.

“The summons makes sufficiently clear what the charges are,” the public prosecutor said. “There are a large number of invoices, but a specification per invoice is not important.”

Van der Laan persisted, saying that the prosecution is using a chain of circumstances to support its evidence: “Invoices remain below 50,000 guilders, Mingo signed them, details of the job description are scarce – so they must be forgeries.”

But the court rejected his argument with a reference to an article in the code of criminal procedures that specifies the requirements a summons has to meet. “The charges are sufficiently clear,” the court ruled.

After the prosecution presented the case against the three defendants, Van der Laan said that the defense needs more time to prepare for trial. “We received four boxes, 30 folders and 2,000 documents and we had only two months to go through it all.”

Van der Laan wants to hear Mingo and a man named Brown (about the Devcon project) as witnesses.

He also asked the court to have the prosecutor’s office translate relevant parts of the dossier because his client does not speak Dutch. The prosecutor said that the attorneys should take care of translations and the court later ruled that it did not see the need for this, because the defendants are represented by professional attorneys.

The prosecutor’s office wants to hear four witnesses: MP Chanel Brownbill (Country Construction), Keith Fleming (K G Construction), Sindo Davis (Jazz General Operational and Contracting Company) and Karim Lake (Select Trucking Services). The court allowed these witnesses to be heard at the Judge of Instruction.

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Related stories:
Emerald-trial: forged invoices, bribes and tax fraud