PHILIPSBURG--During the second day of hearings on Friday in the Bada Bing case suspects maintained they had done nothing wrong and denied allegations of bribery of a politician, forgery, trafficking of women, tax evasion and money-laundering. The Joint Court of Justice will take more time than usual to reach a verdict in what the presiding Judge described as a “complicated case.” The Court will give its decision September 13.
Main suspect and owner of Bada Bing adult entertainment centre in Simpson Bay Jaap van den Heuvel (52), was sentenced by the Court of First Instance to 42 months, twelve of which were suspended, with two years’ probation, for bribery of former independent Member of Parliament (MP) Patrick Illidge (51), money-laundering, tax evasion, trafficking of women and forgery of a commercial lease agreement, on March 6, 2015.
Bada Bing’s holding company Lunteren N.V. was ordered to pay NAf. 1.5 million in fines for tax evasion, money-laundering and trafficking of women.
The Solicitor-General called upon the Appellate Court to uphold the verdicts against all suspects.
At the end of Friday morning’s hearing Van den Heuvel said that the years after March 9, 2013, when a video emerged, showing him seemingly bribing Illidge with some US $15,000 at his company’s office, had been stressful.
“Since then I have been walking in the dark cloud of a nightmare. It is because of me that Krijn [Bada Bing’s assistant manager Van den Brug – Ed.] and Patrick are here,” Van den Heuvel said in his final words.
He said the allegations made him very angry. “There you are, being depicted as a trafficker of women. Google my name and you will find all the misery. That will never disappear. I use the name Jacob van den Heuvel now to avoid any problems.”
Concerning the bribery charge he said: “I had a conversation with Patrick, not with a Member of Parliament. When he speaks to me, he’s speaking with Jaap, not with a brothel owner.”
Van den Heuvel said Illidge was a long-time friend, and not a corrupt and to be bribed politician.
Illidge was equally indignant and said the case against him was politically-motivated. “I am being punished because I am a politician and left a coalition that was not working for the people. After the Government fell there was a quest to try Illidge. That’s why I’m here, because I stood my ground and stood for my people. This [court case – Ed.] is my reward. Now I have this hanging over my head. I’m not a bank, but I help people,” he said.
Illidge (51) was sentenced by the Court of First Instance to 18 months in prison, six of which were suspended, with two years’ probation, for accepting bribes. The Court also revoked Illidge’s right to be elected and banned him from holding public office for five years.
Van den Brug was sentenced to nine months suspended, with two years’ probation and 240 hours of community service for involvement in the trafficking of women.
At the end of the hearing, he read out a written statement in which he said his life had turned upside-down after his boss was accused of bribery in exchange of aid in obtaining business licenses and other government services pertaining to Bada Bing.
“I was surprised that I was also accused of women trafficking. The women working at Bada Bing are of a legal age and were on St. Maarten legally. I had a very difficult time in keeping the company and my colleagues afloat. It has been an emotional rollercoaster since I was accused of trafficking women. I am not a woman trader and a member in a criminal organisation. I never enriched myself at the expense of women. I am not guilty of the charges and hope to be able to be free from this nightmare,” Bada Bing’s assistant manager said.
Friday’s proceeding started with attorney-at-law Cor Merx pleading on behalf of Van den Heuvel and Lunteren on the criminal charges. Tax lawyer Eric Jansen already pleaded in the tax cases on Thursday. Attorneys Ralph Richardson, on behalf of Illidge, and lawyer Geert Hatzmann for Van den Brug, also pleaded on Thursday.
On Friday, Merx followed his colleagues in pleading for his clients’ acquittal. Merx said his clients denied all charges. As to the bribery charges, Merx said that Van den Heuvel and Illidge were long-time friends. He also said that it is not forbidden to ask an MP about the state of affairs concerning a licence or any other Government services. “Is that punishable?” Merx wondered.
He said that trafficking of women could not be proven because the women had not been forced to work at Bada Bing, had not been misled in any way, were not exploited, made good money and were treated well.
Van den Heuvel stated that the women, who were recruited via an agency for sex workers abroad, or who signed up for a job at the club via WhatsApp messages, only obtained a visa from the Dutch embassy in case they were already working in the sex industry and were aware that they were also to be employed as such on St. Maarten.
Merx pleaded for a lesser sentence, as the case and the economic crises had financially “ruined” his client.