Published On: Sat, Nov 16th, 2019

Silence results in acquittal for Heyliger

Theo Heyliger

PHILIPSBURG – The Court in first Instance has acquitted suspended Member of Parliament Theo Heyliger of attempts to bribe former parliamentarian Romain Laville for lack of sufficient supporting evidence. This is mainly due to Laville’s decision to exercise his right to remain silent in front of the Judge of Instruction. A witness, Bada Bing owner Jaap van den Heuvel said that he could not remember a meeting with Heyliger whereby Heyliger allegedly told him that he had offered Laville $135,000 for his return to the United People’s party.

Heyliger’s acquittal is therefore based on lack of sufficient evidence.

On March 28, 2013, Laville filed a complaint at the police station about attempts by Heyliger, J.S. and B.M. to bribe him. He told the police that they had offered him money on different occasions for returning to the UP and for forming a new government with Heyliger. At the time, Heyliger was on the political sidelines after the fall of the first Wescot-Williams cabinet in which he served as the minister of Public Housing, Urban Development, Environment and Infrastructure (VROMI).

An associate of Heyliger, J.S., met with Laville about his return to the UP. According to Laville’s complaint, S. told him that the party was prepared to pay and to offer him the position of Minister of Tourism and Economic Affairs. “It was clear to Laville that S. acted on behalf of Heyliger,” the court ruling states.

During a second meeting in S.’s house, Laville received an offer of $135,000. Heyliger later joined this meeting and presented letters that confirmed the agreements. Laville however, declined to sign these letters.

During a third meeting in Simpson Bay S. urged Laville to cooperate, but the latter demanded “apologies to his parents for the injustice done to them by party members.”

During a fourth meeting Laville found himself in the company of Heyliger, J.S. and B.M.. Laville claims that M. had offered $250,000 and a piece of land on that occasion for his return to the UP. While Laville allegedly answered that he would never return to the UP, M. denied Laville’s claims.

On June 28, 2019, the Judge of Instruction had Laville in front of the bench, but the former MP invoked his right to remain silent and refused to answer any questions. Why? Because after seven years, the Prosecutor’s Office still had Laville in its crosshairs as a suspect without ever taking a decision to prosecute.

Due to Laville’s refusal to answer questions – a matter of his personal freedom of choice – jurisprudence dictates that the evidence cannot be based merely on the former parliamentarian’s statements to the police. For a conviction, the court needed sufficient supporting evidence, while the defense was entitled to “sufficient compensation” for its inability to question Laville.

Laville’s father had heard from his son that “they” had offered him money, but the father did not know who “they” are. Because the father only heard this from his son, the court could not use his statement for supporting evidence.

Another witness is Bada Bing owner Jaap van den Heuvel, at the time owner of the now former Bada Bing brothel in Simpson Bay. On October 22, 2015, Van den Heuvel told the police that Heyliger told him in his club that he had offered Laville $135,000. Later Laville told him over the phone that the offer had gone up to $350,000.

But when the Judge of Instruction interrogated him on September 12, 2019, Van den Heuvel said that he could not remember a meeting with Heyliger whereby an amount of money was mentioned.

Asked whether Heyliger had told him about his attempts to bribe Laville, Van den Heuvel answered that he could not remember this and that he got the story from Laville.

Further undermining his own statement to the police, Van den Heuvel noted that he had probably made his statements to the police out of hatred because due to Heyliger his relationship with his friend Patrick Illidge had come under pressure.  This relates to the Bada Bing bribery video Van den Heuvel made at Heyliger’s request; it shows how Illidge receives a large sum of money from Van den Heuvel – a matter that has resulted in court cases and convictions against both men.

Given all these circumstances, the court ruled that Van den Heuvel’s statement to the police cannot serve as supporting evidence against Heyliger.

The court considers indirect evidence – like text messages and phone contacts – as insufficient supporting evidence for Van den Heuvel’s statement to the police.

The court dismissed the charges that Heyliger had apologized to Laville’s parents and that he had offered him a post as a minister in his new government. “Not every act conducted as a consequence of a gift or a promise equals bribery,” the court ruled. “According to the elucidation this is only the case if those acts potentially hinder the regular functioning of organs or services of the state.”

Furthermore, the court ruled: “Offering apologies and promising a ministerial post are part of the legitimate political process in a democratic country where coalitions have to be formed to arrive at a functioning majority. These are not acts that hinder the regular functioning of organs or services of the state. A different opinion would result in an unacceptable violation of the political process.”

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Related links:
Court verdict T.H.
Court verdict J.S.
Press release Common of Justice (Dutch)