Published On: Thu, May 31st, 2018

Desperate measures

Hilbert HaarBy Hilbert Haar

In September 2016 the Court in first Instance acquitted all suspects in the Masbangu-case. That they were later sentenced on appeal is irrelevant for the point I want to make here.

Masbangu was about a bunch of police officers who went to the campaign office of the United People’s party in 2010 in an attempt to get money for their vote. A party-representative gave them some money. Case closed: bribery.

The court established that the police officers had asked for money and that the party representative had given them money. Why then the acquittal?

The court ruled at the time that there was “no handshake” – in other words, there was no firm agreement between the participants in this scheme that they would vote for the UP in exchange for the money. One defendant told the court even that he had actually voted for another party.

It was of course an interesting court ruling – one that opened all doors island-wide for carefree vote buying and selling. That the appeals court arrived at a different conclusion, and sentenced three of the four defendants, is another matter.

One defendant was acquitted on appeal because the court could not prove that he had received any money. That is an interesting point for the Brooks-case.

Judges are independent and they are not bound by rulings issued by a lower court.

Fastforward to 2018, when attorney Brenda Brooks appeared in court, accused of bribing immigration officers in an attempt to facilitate the entry into the country of two NAGICO-employees.

In this case, the court found proven that Brooks had bribed the immigration officers. The basis for this conviction is a Whatsapp-conversation between Brooks and immigration officer Jahaira Marlin.

After some to-ing and fro-ing this conversation turns to the inevitable what’s in it for me.

Okay, Brooks said, “I’ll give you both 200 bucks” – meaning $200.

The immigration officer who had to do the job wanted $600.

That’s where the conversation ended, be it that the immigration officer messaged her colleague afterwards with the text “Guess she’s not going for it.”

No money changed hands and there certainly was no handshake – no agreement between Brooks and the immigration officers.

Based on these circumstances, the judge that ruled in 2016 on the Masbangu-case would have acquitted Brooks. Would have could have is of course not doing Brooks any good, but against this background it is easier to understand why she immediately appealed Wednesday’s verdict of a 6 month conditional prison sentence and a 10,000 guilders ($5,587) fine.

An argument in Brooks’ favor remains that she did not approach the immigration officers for personal financial gain. The court did not see it that way though: it noted that for Brooks, the end justified the means.

In the meantime, another argument has been brought to our attention: Brooks’ role as a supervisory director of NAGICO. Solving personnel issues is, under corporate governance rules, the task of the company’s management, not that of any member of the supervisory board.

Brooks must have thought that desperate times asked for desperate measures. For taking that initiative she did not get the kudos she may have expected; instead, as long as the ruling of the Court in First Instance stands, she got a blemish on her record as a criminal defense attorney that must hurt like hell.