Published On: Fri, Mar 13th, 2020

Request for double acquittal in LARIMAR case

PHILIPSBURG — The ten days he spent in the police cell were “horrible,” said Ron Elferink, CFO of shipping company Intermar. Along with Intermar owner and CEO George Pelgrim, he is suspected of helping with money laundering. Both should have known that there was something wrong with the origin and acquisition of the “Mullen property”, according to the indictment. The Public Prosecutor demands 140 hours of community service for each.

The lawyers of both Pelgrim and Elferink say they are very surprised that their client has to appear in court. With regard to a suspected criminal transaction, which took place three years ago, persons were heard who, according to the lawyers, have much more to explain, but who have never been summoned. One of them is Peyton Cromwell, a well-known real estate agent on St. Maarten.

Mullen property is a piece of land on St. Maarten that has been purchased with funds from offshore companies of the Dutch construction consultant Ronald Maasdam, prime suspect in the Larimar case. Maasdam, who made a deal with the Public Prosecution Service in exchange for a 50 percent reduction in sentence, told the judge on Monday, March 9, that he systematically gave two thirds of the fee he received from construction companies to Theo Heyliger. According to his statement, he withdrew the cash from accounts of his offshore companies, put a package of banknotes in an envelope, hid it in a newspaper and made sure that Heyliger got it.

Maasdam presents himself to the judge as a lobbyist, saying that his role was to “bring parties together”, referring to companies and political leaders. When his lobby resulted in an assignment for a company, that company paid him a fee. By default, that amounted to 3 percent of each project of at least $1 million, which equates to at least $30,000. Two-thirds of that was destined for Theo Heyliger, according to Maasdam, who claims to have paid millions. Heyliger denies ever accepting bribes from Maasdam.

Theo Heyliger is the ex-stepson of George Pelgrim (67). One day Pelgrim received a call from Florida, a car was parked at the gate of his Fort Lauderdale home. “I was asked if that car could be parked there. I said, “Okay, put it in the garage.” Criminal records show that the car is a classic Dodge Charger, that it came from St. Maarten, belongs to Theo Heyliger and is worth $ 200,000. “Where’s the car now?”, asks the judge. Pelgrim: “Still in Florida. I decided to sell my house, but nobody came to pick up the car.” He put the furniture from his house in storage and had the car parked there, says Pelgrim. Grinning: “Maybe I should ask Theo a fee for storage?”

Judge and Court Recorder Larimar Case - 20200310 JH

Pelgrim is a family man, his lawyers say. He is also a successful businessman. “Thanks to a healthy work ethic and good business acumen, he has achieved success as an entrepreneur over the past 35 years.” Pelgrim is annoyed that in the criminal file all his business interests are classified under Intermar: he owns several companies, about 120 families on St Maarten depend on Pelgrim’s businesses for their income. The businessman has no criminal record. “I never thought that I would be in court at my age,” says Pelgrim, visibly affected. What actually did he do wrong?

To render a service to his friend and business partner Peyton Cromwell, George Pelgrim asked another friend and business partner in the United States to sign a UBO statement. Under the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Prevention Act (Wwft), it is mandatory for financial institutions to indicate who is the Ultimate Beneficial Owner (UBO) in case of large transactions. The signing of the UBO statement and other formalities would have been arranged by Ron Elferink, Chief Financial Officer of Intermar, Pelgrim’s shipping company.

The prosecution does not believe that Pelgrim acted in good faith, the businessman is suspected of having his American business partner sign so as to assist Heyliger in laundering money. Heyliger is said to have been the owner of Windward Breeze, an offshore company that bought the Mullen property in 2011 with money from Maasdam and sold this land at a profit in 2017, then invested the proceeds in a site in Oyster Pond.

Pelgrim says he had agreed with broker Peyton Cromwell to jointly purchase the site at Oyster Pond, whereby Pelgrim would invest half a million dollars. Cromwell paid his share of $200,000 outside the notary, money that the prosecutor said came from Heyliger and stemmed from crime. Cromwell, who was identified as a suspect by the Public Prosecutor, invoked his right to remain silent. He offered to speak if he were not to be prosecuted.

The file in Ron Elferink’s case is mainly made up of statements made by broker Peyton Cromwell, according to Elferink’s lawyer Shaira Bommel. “The statements make it abundantly clear that Cromwell is not so concerned with the truth. Cromwell knows that his actions on behalf of Maasdam and or with Maasdam have not been correct and immediately asks for the guarantee that he will not be prosecuted. Strange if you didn’t do anything wrong.”

The lawyer has noticed that the police officers who conducted the interrogation apparently determined whether someone will be prosecuted or not. “They indicated that Cromwell would only be heard as a witness. However, it is up to the Public Prosecutor to determine that.”

Elferink sets up a foundation on behalf of Pelgrim and Cromwell to purchase two sites in Oyster Pond. In the notary’s office, Cromwell indicates that he has already paid his share of the investment and transferred the money directly to the seller. “Elferink cannot know that this money may have come from crime,” says his lawyer. “There is no evidence of my client’s involvement in money laundering. There are no witness statements and no documents to support this.”

Pelgrim’s lawyers also argue for his innocence. As the investor Pelgrim says: “I thought Oyster Pond was a nice investment, but it turned into a nightmare.” In his last word, he says that he no longer fully trusts anyone, not even his friends. Elferink cannot speak a word anymore, he is overcome with emotions. The judge has been asked to acquit on behalf of both.


Related links:
Sulvaran: “The public prosecutor has trampled on the rights of Heyliger”
Letter to the Editor: “Reporting error?
Opinion piece by Hilbert Haar: “The crown witness
TBO releases press statement and video explaining LARIMAR case
Press release TBO explaining LARIMAR case and Prosecution demands
Press release TBO explaining LARIMAR case and Prosecution demands – in Dutch
Public Prosecutor’s Office demands Heyliger be immediately imprisoned
Theo Heyliger: ‘I never accepted money from Maasdam’
Heyliger denies everything
“Don’t pay Theo? That question did not arise.”
Larimar-trial: 3 years demand against Maasdam, UP board claims innocence for Heyliger
Heyliger and four others stand trial in large bribery-case
UP Board: Prosecutor presents no physical evidence against Theo Heyliger
Photo reportage start LARIMAR trial at Belair Community Center