Defence argues lack of convincing evidence in Emsley Tromp’s eight-year legal battle

Defence argues lack of convincing evidence  in Emsley Tromp’s eight-year legal battle

~ ‘Inhuman’ delay in justice for Tromp claimed ~

PHILIPSBURG--Legal and convincing evidence for a conviction of former President of the Central Bank of Curaçao and St. Maarten (CBCS) Emsley Tromp for bribery, fraud, and money-laundering is lacking, his defence states. Tromp was dismissed in 2017 and has been under suspicion of criminal offences for eight years without a conviction. “Inhuman,” say his lawyers. “How long will this go on?”

The defence has chosen to take the judge – a new judge, not familiar with Tromp's complete file – on “a journey” that starts in August 2016. They aim to make the judge part of “the remarkable fight” that the lawyers have had with the Prosecution Service, describing it as “a desperate process of pushing and pulling, hanging and strangling.” The defence notes with some sarcasm that the prosecution has named its investigation “Hercules”, which they find quite telling.

“In no other criminal procedure that we have conducted in the past 20 years has the action of the Prosecution Service been as alien to its role as in this case,” said the legal team De Roos & Pen, consisting of Mr. N. van der Laan and Mr. J.C. Dekkers. "What we miss so much in this file is how questions and observations that are continuously raised can be turned into evidence – legal and convincing evidence, which also fits into the legal context of the charged facts.”

In August 2016, the foundation was laid for conscious or unconscious bias that appears to have burdened the investigation for years, according to the lawyers.

“There were major concerns in Dutch politics and at the Dutch Central Bank (DNB) about possible careless supervision by the CBCS due to a potentially corrupt president. These concerns led to Tromp being selected for thorough scrutiny, financed by the Netherlands. Consequently, an investigation was initiated, led by two Dutch prosecutors who had already openly targeted Tromp in previous years.

“In any case, beyond seeking the truth, there were also political and prosecutorial interests in removing Tromp from the CBCS as a potentially obstructive and possibly corrupt president, to improve the supervision of and relationship with the CBCS.”

In 2016, Attorney General Guus Schram wrote to the then Minister of Finance of St. Maarten, Richard Gibson, that various news reports indicated “a hint of integrity violations attached to the CBCS. These messages are harmful because a CBCS that operates without any appearance of integrity violations … is essential for a well-functioning monetary system and a reliable financial sector.” Schram then said that a central bank with a hint of integrity violations “has an (international) image that attracts and promotes criminal behaviour in the financial system.”

Schram pointed out the screening instrument to Minister Gibson and requested that Gibson order such an investigation. Schram noted that he was also sending his letter to the Dutch Minister of Finance.

Tromp did not pass the screening. In December 2016, the Prosecution Service informed the screening committee that, in its opinion, sufficient evidence had been generated to justify criminal prosecution. A search of Tromp’s house followed.

The presumption of innocence seems far removed for the Prosecution Service, the lawyers noted. “The prosecutor separated an incomprehensible suspicion of tax fraud and compiled a seriously incomplete criminal file.”

According to Tromp’s lawyers, no official report has been drawn up suggesting that Tromp was involved in securing the loan of 2.4 million Antillean Guilders from Enpiso in favour of Curaçao Fashion Group NV. “There is no evidence that indicates major involvement of Tromp in that

Enpiso loan other than that Lourents [Rene Lourents, deputy director of CBCS – Ed.] stated that Tromp had put him in touch."

The lawyers argue that it appears the Prosecution Service subsequently constructed a justification for the investigation into the loan, an investigation that started in 2016. Based on a request for legal assistance sent in July 2017, Venezuelan witnesses were heard by Interpol Venezuela in February 2018. “Statements made by these witnesses are completely exculpatory,” the defence concludes, revealing that those interrogated did not know Tromp and had never spoken to him.

The prosecution also alleged that after Curaçao Fashion Group (CFG) received a loan from Banco di Caribe worth 1.5 million Antillean Guilders, CFG wired US $400,000 to Emsley Tromp Pensioenen, Tromp’s pension account. According to the prosecution, records indicate that on the day Tromp received the $400,000 in his account, he allocated $52,000 for personal credit card payments. A day later, Tromp transferred $300,000 to his investment account.

According to Tromp’s lawyers, the TBO financial investigation team responsible for exposing money-laundering concluded in 2017 that they found nothing suspicious regarding the $400,000 loan.

Moreover, Tromp was acquitted of tax fraud on November 17, 2017. This judgment was confirmed on appeal on December 13, 2018. On February 9, 2019, the Prosecution Service withdrew its appeal in cassation against the acquittal.

The investigation should have been laid to rest, conclude Tromp’s lawyers, who scornfully state that the defeat of the prosecutor led to even more drive, and “the birth of a ‘new' investigation, named Hercules – after the Greek demigod of strength and invincibility,” the defence stated scornfully. “You have to hand it to the prosecution, they do have a sense of humour.”

The Hercules investigation concerns a restart of one of the suspicions that arose during the Saffier investigation, specifically the allegations of official corruption in connection with a transaction of $400,000 to Tromp’s pension fund, the attorneys reiterated.

“The accusation was made in the media that this transaction was a gift for positive advice from the CBCS to the government on the takeover of Banco di Caribe. Let that sink in for a moment. That is exactly the same corruption suspicion that was hurled into the world in 2010/2011 by Schotte [Gerrit Schotte, then Prime Minister of Curaçao], where Wiels [Helmin Wiels, Curaçao politician murdered on May 5, 2013] had already filed a report in 2011. This suspicion had already been investigated by the Rosenmöller Commission in 2011, then by the General Audit Chamber, then by accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, and from 2015-2016 by the Financial Investigation Team TBO.”

The lawyers emphasise that this is a suspicion based on media reports that “had already been taken off the table by the TBO in November 2017 and for which no evidence had been found during the years-long investigation.” And yet, the defence denounces, “this corruption suspicion was renewed in 2019. The prosecutor decide to tackle it again with fresh courage.”

The attorneys further noted: “What is also striking is the minimal research conducted in Hercules during those first months of 2019. Initially, there were no investigations involving requests for information, searches, or interviews with witnesses. Instead, the only notable change was Lourents’ status transitioning from a witness to a suspect, accompanied by a sudden bombardment of inquiries.”

In the defence’s perspective, what unfolds next transcends any conventional criminal narrative. “Lourents faces direct threats. These aren’t merely ominous warnings; they are substantiated. The Prosecutor unequivocally instructs the co-suspect: Lourents must align his statement with

the narrative crafted by the prosecution, or face imminent arrest and detention. Regrettably, that’s precisely what occurred.”

According to his attorneys, Tromp was not operationally or officially involved with the two clothing stores of the Curaçao Fashion Group in the Renaissance Shopping Mall in Otrobanda, Willemstad. The Prosecution Service alleged that these stores were utilised for money-laundering.

The attorneys argue that there is a lack of evidence indicating a comprehensive investigation into the actual managers or ultimate beneficial owners (UBOs) based on the complete administrative records, the business operations of CFG (spanning from its establishment to its closure), and/or the financial transactions during this period.

“It appears,” the attorneys said, “that the seized data carriers were only scrutinised for emails involving Tromp, which were then selectively added to the case file. However, what weight should be attributed to this collection of emails? Not a single email has been uncovered that substantiates the Prosecutor’s assertion that Tromp is the true owner of CFG.”

According to Tromp’s attorneys, Hercules has been lacking in procedural accountability for years. They assert that Tromp was never updated on any progress following his last interrogation in January 2017. It was not until February 2020, more than three years later, that he unexpectedly received an invitation for another interrogation, which came as a shock.

His lawyers claim that the prosecutor seemed unwilling to provide any documents. “After much difficulty,” the defence eventually obtained a preliminary case file. However, they argue that essential documents are missing. “The omission of the interrogation of Ansary [Husang Ansary, owner of Banco dio Caribe] from the file is particularly egregious in our view,” they said.

The defence formally asserts that all evidence contained in the case file is inadequately reliable and should not be admissible as evidence. Tromp’s attorneys argue that the evidence has been tainted by improper influence, consisting of hearsay statements lacking confirmation from the original source. Additionally, they contend that such statements are contradicted by other evidence, or crucial context is absent, with insufficient research conducted to explore this context fully or accurately.

They further argue that as the Curaçao Fashion Group was co-managed until 2010 by Yanet de Castro, Tromp’s then-fiancée, “it is understandable that he occasionally offered assistance in areas he was knowledgeable about or addressed issues with individuals he was familiar with.”

The defence pointed out that due to his position at CBCS, Tromp was frequently sought after for advice, including by Lourents. However, they emphasised that Lourents did not always adhere to Tromp’s counsel, often opting for his own course of action instead.

Tromp’s defence contends that his limited involvement in 2011-2012 does not establish him as the actual manager of CFG, nor does it assign him responsibility for CFG’s business operations and the associated financial obligations, such as debts owed to Banco di Caribe. They argue that the sudden questioning by the prosecutor regarding CFG’s legitimacy as a “serious store” is merely an obvious attempt to mask the absence of evidence implicating Tromp in CFG’s affairs.

The defence emphasises that the financial debts owed to Banco di Caribe and Enpiso are solely Lourents’ responsibilities. They assert that Lourents made the decision to continue operating the stores for years following De Castro’s departure. Despite facing threats from the Prosecution Service and persistent accusations from the RST alleging his association with Tromp, Lourents maintains his explanation. He continues to assert his autonomy in managing the stores, despite pressure suggesting otherwise.

From the defence’s standpoint, only one conclusion appears viable: acquittal. There is an absence of evidence indicating Tromp’s involvement in the Enpiso loan, let alone any criminal

activity. Even if it were proven to be a gift intended to sway his judgment, there is insufficient evidence to suggest that Tromp was aware of such intentions.

The indictment by the prosecutor alleges that funds were utilised to settle Tromp’s personal credit card debts, spanning from 2008 to 2010. However, reconstructing these transactions 12 to 14 years later is deemed practically unfeasible.

The defence posits that the fact that the payments were made towards Tromp’s personal credit card debt does not automatically classify the expenditures as personal. They argue that Tromp could have potentially covered various expenses for his fiancée using his private credit card. Nonetheless, without access to underlying documents, which would no longer be available after 10 years, substantiating such claims becomes an insurmountable challenge.

The Daily Herald

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