PHILIPSBURG--Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs is preparing to go to court to enforce rectification and an apology from businessman Olivier Arrindell, who has repeatedly accused her of being corrupt. The petition for summary proceedings, filed with the Court of First Instance on October 18, scrutinises 29 videos made by Arrindell.
Jacobs fears that Arrindell intends to influence the outcome of the upcoming general elections with his multimedia attack on the governing authority, as can be deduced from the introduction to the petition. It starts as follows: “For several weeks now, Arrindell has been circulating almost daily videos, audio recordings and WhatsApp messages in which he makes all kinds of statements about local government officials, parliamentarians, other politicians and third parties, and it has been the talk of the town.”
The start of the distribution of the image and sound material, said attorney Melinda Hoeve on behalf of Prime Minister Jacobs, “comes shortly after the Prime Minister's announcement on August 30, 2023, that the general elections will take place on January 11, 2024.”
The fact that Arrindell repeatedly insinuated that he will endorse an election candidate, or appear on the list of a political party himself, means, according to the plaintiff, that “this provides Arrindell’s probable motive for his accusations.”
Arrindell is reported to have a number of group chats, with several hundred people per chat, in which he shares videos, audio recordings and messages. “This material is then forwarded to third parties by Arrindell himself or other group members and then spreads like wildfire,” attorney Hoeve pointed out.
The petition further focuses on the nature of those statements that are "offensive, diffident and unnecessarily offensive" to Jacobs, her partner and other family members. According to Jacobs’ lawyer, her right to honour and good name has been violated.
To illustrate this claim, a video from September 12, 2023, is cited, in which Arrindell said: “This is the plan that I have. This is why we are exposing the corruption that is going on. Because when you have Ardwell, when you have Doran, when you have Rolando Brison and the Prime Minister, all of them in one collusion together as a group of gangs that is basically giving this country out to the Italians and all the highest gangsters and mafias that is walking around in this place, then the people of St. Maarten can’t get nothing.”
In another video, Arrindell outright called the prime minister a corrupt woman, saying: “Let me show you how corrupt this woman is.” Arrindell addressed the neighbourhood where the prime minister lives. “You all people in Dutch Quarter, either you are all blind or can’t see. The Dutch Quarter people them, Silveria Jacobs don’t care about you all up in Dutch Quarter […] because she is busy building that big house behind Emilio Wilson Park […] Yeah, she built a house up there.”
Arrindell, who has presented himself as a spokesperson for the victims of Dwain Carbon’s alleged Ponzi scheme, claims that Carbon et al, who owe their clients some US $10 million, enjoy protection from the prime minister and other members of the Council of Ministers. “They are the ones that have been giving this guy Dwain Carbon protection. The largest Ponzi scheme in St. Maarten was done by Dwain who has gotten assistance and help by Doran, who has gotten assistance and help by Minister of Finance Ardwell to rip off the people of St. Maarten more than $10 million.
“If I am wrong, prove me that I am wrong. Madame Prime Minister, you should be ashamed of yourself.”
Further mentioning Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and
Infrastructure VROMI Egbert Doran, Minister of Finance Ardwell Irion and Prime Minister Jacobs in relation to the Carbon Grove fiasco, Arrindell said they are complicit. “You all are aid and abet. You are all criminals. This is why we cannot wait on the Prosecutor’s Office to do the jobs of the St. Maarten people. We have to do the jobs for ourselves. We have to do the jobs and eradicate these people for ourselves.”
Jacobs’ attorney points out that this last phrase is “extremely serious and intense in nature, concluding that “Arrindell is de facto inciting the public to violence.” After all, he states that the people must take matters into their own hands, the attorney pointed out. “Moreover, Arrindell asked the public to eradicate Irion, Doran and Jacobs.”
The common thread, the lawyer concluded in the petition, is “that Arrindell repeatedly portrays Jacobs as a corrupt politician in his videos, audio recordings and messages. He accuses Jacobs of being a direct or indirect business partner of Dwain Carbon or Carbon Acquisition Group and therefore having financially benefited from Carbon’s alleged unlawful activities. This apparently enabled her to build a large home behind Emilio Wilson. This infringes on Jacobs’ right to honour and good reputation.”
However, it did not stop at allegations of corruption alone, according to Jacobs’ attorney, who stated in the petition: “Arrindell has managed to dedicate an entire video to Jacobs and alleged sexual harassment within her cabinet. He asks why Jacobs’ cabinet consists of 98% women. He also asks why these women keep quitting their jobs, given the fact that it is one of the best-paid offices in St. Maarten.” The lawyer pointed out that Arrindell is trying to establish a connection between the dismissal or departure of Jacobs’ staff and sexual harassment by Jacobs.
Arrindell also shared personal information about the Prime Minister online, going so far as to claim that “Jacobs was abused as a child and has suffered psychological problems as a result, which contributed to her becoming a lesbian.”
Arrindell’s accusations are not only “unnecessarily offensive, exaggerated and downright tasteless,” these statements do not contribute in any way to the general interest and the public debate on policy topics, the attorney concluded.
After a month, Jacobs had had enough. On October 6, 2023, attorney Hoeve sent a letter to Arrindell on behalf of the Prime Minister, summoning him to immediately stop making videos, sound recordings and messages that could be considered slander, libel or unlawful. It was demanded that Arrindell publicly apologise within 24 hours of receiving the letter, specifically stating that his statements were not based on the truth.
Arrindell responded within the hour, stating that he is invoking the right of freedom of expression. He invited the lawyer to make the case “bigger”. “If you and Prime Minister Jacobs and her girlfriend somehow find a way to get this matter admissible, it will help my case of eradicating the corruption in her government under her watch. I am sincerely asking you to make this matter bigger.” Arrindell then made a video showing the email and letter, along with his comments.
According to lawyer Hoeve, “a flood” of videos and messages followed “as revenge against Jacobs because she sought legal help,” with the law firm Hoeve-Rogers also becoming a target of “unfounded allegations.”
Because “it appears that Arrindell does not intend to stop his unlawful conduct,” Jacobs will request the judge in summary proceedings to sentence Arrindell to rectification in The Daily Herald.
The following text is demanded: “I, Olivier Emmanuel Arrindell, would like to announce the following: I have called Ms. Silveria Jacobs corrupt, repeatedly and publicly. This accusation is unfounded and consequently I herewith retract the accusation in question.”
This correction should appear on one of the first three pages of The Daily Herald within 24
hours after the verdict, along with three separate corrections regarding 1) Carbon Acquisition Group, 2) sexual harassment of government officials, 3) statements about Jacobs’ sexual orientation.
Under penalty of forfeiture of US $5,000 per day, the lawyer demands that the total of four corrections by Arrindell be recorded as video messages and handed over to Prime Minister Jacobs. The maximum penalty is set at $1 million.
A date for the summary proceedings has not yet been published.