TSXM – GREAT BAY – The Public Prosecutor’s Office intends to get tougher with people who attempt to enter the country with forged travel documents. Currently these travelers are routinely sent back where they came from after paying a $300 fine, but in the future these violations will always be met with unconditional prison sentences.
While the guideline for this new policy is still in the works, the first defendant already felt its effectsyesterday in the Court in First Instance. Marie Ameloune Jean-Pierro, a 40-year-old woman who flew to St. Maarten from her native Haiti on February 13 with a forged French-side residence permit, received a 1-month unconditional prison sentence.
“Sending people back with a transaction is too weak a reaction,” prosecutor Dounia Benammar told the court. “The new guideline is not valid yet, but it presumes higher fines and unconditional prison sentences. Right now people know that they are able to buy it off when things go wrong. The fines will go up because this is simply happening far too often.”
The defendant did not appear in court. Prosecutor Benammar said that the woman had arrived with a temporary French-side residence permit that had been tampered with. The original photo on the document had been replaced with the defendant’s picture. That became obvious because the so-called dry-stamp was visible on the paper of the document, but not on the picture.
The defendant said after she was caught that a cousin had taken care of the paperwork for her; later she declared that she had done it all by herself.
Judge Koos van de Ven considered the charge proven and sentenced Jean-Pierro conform the prosecutor’s demand to 1 month imprisonment.
“These are important documents for border control,” he said. “The authenticity of these papers is crucial.”