Criminal investigation into lawyer discontinued due to errors made

Criminal investigation into lawyer  discontinued due to errors made

PHILIPSBURG--Due to serious errors made in the criminal investigation of attorney-at-law P.A.B. and her law office in the so-called “Aquamarine Investigation” the Prosecutor’s Office said Monday it has dismissed the criminal case against this lawyer.

  The Aquamarine investigation was launched in September 2016 and runs under the responsibility of the Central Team of the Prosecutor’s Office of Curaçao, St. Maarten, Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba. The investigation was conducted by the Kingdom Detective Cooperation Team RST (“Recherche Samenwerkingsteam”)

  In this investigation, St. Maarten lawyer B. was suspected of committing fraud, forgery and money laundering. Searches were conducted at her home and law firm in late 2018 and early 2019 under the direction of the Judge of Instruction. During these searches, various documents and digital data were seized.

  A complaint was filed by B. and the law firm against this seizure in the Court of First Instance, alleging that her right to privilege as a lawyer had been violated.

  In the complaint procedure, which has run from late 2019 to the present day, it has emerged that several irreparable, formal errors were made by the Prosecutor’s Office, the Judge of Instruction and the RST in the seizure and further handling of the potentially privileged documents and data of B. and her law firm, the Prosecutor’s Office said.

  “After careful consideration of all the facts and circumstances, the Prosecution concluded that this not only infringed the (derivative) right to privilege to which B. and her law firm were entitled, but also potentially violated her right to a fair trial,” the Prosecutor’s Office said.

  The Prosecutor’s Office believes that the mistakes made by prosecutors, the cabinet of the Judge of Instruction and the RST are so serious that the Prosecutor’s Office considers itself inadmissible in the further prosecution of B. Therefore, the criminal case against the lawyer has been dismissed. Lawyer B. did not respond to a request for comment.

  In the Aquamarine investigation, former Member of Parliament (MP) Frans Richardson was sentenced in the Court of First Instance on 15 November, 2021 to 12 months and payment of criminal proceeds of NAf. 666,000 and NAf. 192,690. He was also banned from running for public office for three years.

  Richardson was found guilty of having requested substantial sums of money from construction company Taliesin, or its contractor and owner of Low Price Lumber Hardware store, for repairs of storm damage to the “LEA-building” in which government-owned agency Bureau Telecommunication and Post (BTP) is located. This concerns repair of damage caused by Hurricane Irma.

  In return for the money, Richardson used his influence as a politician to ensure that Taliesin would be awarded contracts for maintenance and repair work for BTP and to expedite payment of existing contracts with BTP.

  Also, Richardson participated in a contract between Advanced Communications and Technology Services NV ACTIS and BTP, which was closed March 16, 2012. ACTIS became the managing company of the numbering plan for St. Maarten as per June 15, 2012.

  Richardson, through his shareholding in Caribbean Value Estate Ltd. (CVE) and CVE’s shareholding in ACTIS, had a financial interest in the contract between BTP and ACTIS, under which BTP made payments to ACTIS, the court stated, adding that Richardson had received dividends from ACTIS.

  As an MP and member of the parliamentary committee for TEATT, Richardson was also a supervisor of BTP. He supervised the contracts closed by BTP with third parties, including ACTIS, and the financial consequences thereof, the court said at the time.

  In addition, he abused his political functions as a member of the parliamentary Committee of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) and the Committee of Finance to gain personal benefit between March 16, 2012, and September 23, 2019, it was said in the court ruling of November 17, 2021.

The Daily Herald

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