Court seize $50,000 from rum trader

Alcohol

TSXM –  GREAT BAY – The Court in First Instance sentenced 52-year-old Patrick Lazarre to a 6 month conditional prison sentence with 2 years of probation yesterday for money laundering. Lazarre was caught on his way to Haiti at the airport on April 27 with a bit more than $50,000 stuffed under his clothing. The court seized the money.

The defendant told the court that he had legally earned the money by selling Barbancourt Rhum in the Haitian community, but the numbers did not really add up. Lazarre said that he bought the rum in Haiti, paying $80 for a box containing five bottles and that he sold them for $150 per bottle in St. Maarten. Over the past four months he had made thirteen rum trips between the two countries.

“I find this difficult to believe,” Judge Mr. Koos van de Ven said. “You buy the rum for $16 per bottle. Why would people pay ten times that price?”

“It is the number one rum in the world,” the defendant said. Asked whether he paid taxes in St. Maarten, Lazarre remained silent, but his attorney Christian de Jong later said that his client feels he is not subject to paying taxes on the island.

The defendant said that he had told airport officials he was carrying the money on him, that he had been traveling up and down for eight months (instead of the four months he indicated to investigators) and that he works as a math and English teacher in Port-au-Prince. He made all his trips to St. Maarten during the weekend. To investigators Lazarre said he sold the rum for $60 per bottle, but in court he upped the price to $150.

Barbancourt 5-star rum is sold on the internet for $26.99 per bottle. A case of 12 bottles costs $291.49 – bringing the price per bottle down to $24.29.

Prosecutor  Gonda van der Wulp said that the case met several money laundering criteria. “”The defendant attempted to leave the country with the money, he hid the money under his clothing, he did not report it and he carried banknotes that are not usual for daily use. He carried 332 $50-banknotes and 334 $100-banknotes. The defendant’s explanation is not plausible.”

The prosecutor also pointed out that Lazarre had changed his story about the sales price. “If he had sold them for $60 per bottle, he would have had different bank notes in his possession.”

The prosecutor demanded a 6-month prison sentence and seizure of the $50,000.

Attorney  Christian de Jong told the court that his client denies the money he carried stems from any crime. “There are a lot of assumptions and innuendos on the police report but that is not convincing evidence,” he said. “The money is his turnover over four months. He hid the money because there is a large risk of robbery in Haiti.”

The attorney asked the court to acquit his client and to return the money to him.

Judge Van de Ven ruled that there is legal and convincing evidence that the defendant knew the money stems from a crime. The court based its ruling on the circumstances: “You carried the money on your body, mai

nly in $50 and $100-banknotes, you did not know exactly how much money you had with you and you claim that it is the profit from buying and selling rum.”

The judge calculated that, based on the sales price of $60 per bottle, Lazarre would have made a profit of $11,440 – a far cry from the amount of money found in his possession. Judge Van de Ven had also checked Barbancourt prices on the internet and found that the sales price is nowhere near $60 per bottle for the 5-star variety.

“The court does not accept your explanation. If you feared robbery in Haiti, it would have been logical to take the money back home in smaller amounts during the thirteen trips you made.”

 

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Public Prosecutor’s Office gets tougher with people who attempt to enter the country with forged documents

fake document

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.”

http://ilandvibez.com/public-prosecutors-office-gets-tougher-with-people-who-attempt-to-enter-the-country-with-forged-documents/

Tornado Hits Antigua as hurricane Chantal passes

tornadossite-Antigua-st-maarten-ilandvibez-sxm

This waterspout over the sea close to Jumby Bay Resort was one of several sighted by residents as Tropical Storm Chantal passed south of Antigua & Barbuda yesterday afternoon. (Photo by Stephen Mendes)

JOHN’S, Antigua – Residents made several reports of tornadoes and waterspouts touching down on the island, as Tropical Storm Chantal passed to the south of Antigua yesterday afternoon.
OBSERVER media newsroom received eyewitness reports of tornadoes forming in the Lightfoot community and causing damage to both the Camp Blizzard army base and the Jumby Bay Resort on offshore Long Island.
Major Randolph Best, commanding officer with responsibility for disaster management at the Antigua & Barbuda Defence Force, recalled how he saw a tornado rummage through the Camp Blizzard base.
“I was getting ready to speak with the troops, having monitored what was going on with the passage of the storm,” he said.
“There was a sudden gust of wind and I happened to look outside the window and saw a tornado passing no more than 15 feet from the building I was in.”
Major Best said the twister tore up quite a few trees and displaced several tanks filled water.
“Several windows were broken, literally exploded,” he said.
“Vehicles were displaced and got damaged. Coconut trees were blown over; several trees snapped. We had several buildings that the roof was damaged.” At the time of speaking to OBSERVER the major said there were no reports of loss of life or injury, so far, but that the army was still conducting its assessment.
Meantime, at Jumby Bay Resort, one worker said he was inside the building when a twister passed.
When contacted about 5 pm Tuesday, the Office of Meteorological Services was asking residents to avoid the Jabberwock Beach area to the north of the island, where a water spout/tornado had reportedly formed.
Forecaster Dale Destin confirmed that the tornadoes were a result of Tropical Storm Chantal.
Chantal, which had formed in the Atlantic Ocean, broke through the Caribbean island chain some time Tuesday and rapidly moved away from the Leeward Islands at 26 miles per hour.
The storm, currently located in the Caribbean Sea, is expected to become a hurricane and make landfall at The .

Tornado Hits Antigua as hurricane Chantal passes

tornadossite-Antigua-st-maarten-ilandvibez-sxm

This waterspout over the sea close to Jumby Bay Resort was one of several sighted by residents as Tropical Storm Chantal passed south of Antigua & Barbuda yesterday afternoon. (Photo by Stephen Mendes)

JOHN’S, Antigua – Residents made several reports of tornadoes and waterspouts touching down on the island, as Tropical Storm Chantal passed to the south of Antigua yesterday afternoon.
OBSERVER media newsroom received eyewitness reports of tornadoes forming in the Lightfoot community and causing damage to both the Camp Blizzard army base and the Jumby Bay Resort on offshore Long Island.
Major Randolph Best, commanding officer with responsibility for disaster management at the Antigua & Barbuda Defence Force, recalled how he saw a tornado rummage through the Camp Blizzard base.
“I was getting ready to speak with the troops, having monitored what was going on with the passage of the storm,” he said.
“There was a sudden gust of wind and I happened to look outside the window and saw a tornado passing no more than 15 feet from the building I was in.”
Major Best said the twister tore up quite a few trees and displaced several tanks filled water.
“Several windows were broken, literally exploded,” he said.
“Vehicles were displaced and got damaged. Coconut trees were blown over; several trees snapped. We had several buildings that the roof was damaged.” At the time of speaking to OBSERVER the major said there were no reports of loss of life or injury, so far, but that the army was still conducting its assessment.
Meantime, at Jumby Bay Resort, one worker said he was inside the building when a twister passed.
When contacted about 5 pm Tuesday, the Office of Meteorological Services was asking residents to avoid the Jabberwock Beach area to the north of the island, where a water spout/tornado had reportedly formed.
Forecaster Dale Destin confirmed that the tornadoes were a result of Tropical Storm Chantal.
Chantal, which had formed in the Atlantic Ocean, broke through the Caribbean island chain some time Tuesday and rapidly moved away from the Leeward Islands at 26 miles per hour.
The storm, currently located in the Caribbean Sea, is expected to become a hurricane and make landfall at The .

About 15,000 liable to forced labor in St. Maarten Because of human trafficking and top level officials being involved

human-trafficking-st-maarten-ilandvibez-tribune “St. Maarten is a source, transit and destination for women, children and men subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor”, the American State Department writes in its 2013 Trafficking in Persons report. “An estimated 15,000 illegal migrant workers in the country are highly vulnerable to forced domestic service and forced labor in construction, Chinese supermarkets, retail shops, security, landscaping and housekeeping.”

“There are strong indications that some of the hundreds of foreign migrant women in St. Maarten’s sex trade are subjected to debt bondage,” the report states, adding that women and girls from Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and other countries in the region are ‘the most vulnerable to becoming victims of sex trafficking.

The report also mentions women from Russia and eastern Europe as potential victims. It furthermore refers to the six-month contracts for prostitutes and to the fact that the women depend on strip club and brothel owners for their work permits.

Interestingly, the report notes that St. Maarten authorities have reported “that workers from India, Haiti, Jamaica and other Caribbean islands are subjected to exploitative conditions involving indicators of forced labor.”

Even more alarming is that “local experts” report “that St. Maarten women and girls studying in the Netherlands may be vulnerable to sex trafficking by residents of the Netherlands.”

The American report is critical of St. Maarten’s efforts to combat human trafficking. “The government of St. Maarten does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated important leadership in the region by prosecuting and convicting a sex trafficking offender and holding this perpetrator accountable with jail time.”

This last remark is a clear reference to the prosecution of Angel Priest of the Border Bar who was sentenced to 54 months imprisonment (with 18 months suspended) for trafficking women. The government had little to do with this since prosecuting criminal offenders is the prerogative of the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

The report notes that towards the end of the reporting period (towards the end of 2012) “the government launched an investigation into trafficking-related complicity involving high-level officials in the country. The government however did not prosecute any officials for trafficking-related complicity, which hampered its ability to authentically address its trafficking problem.”

The report furthermore states that “the overall lack of victim identification in St. Maarten, despite a very large vulnerable population of illegal immigrants and foreign women in prostitution, highlights the ineffectiveness of the government’s response. This lack if victim identification likely resulted in the deportation and criminalization of trafficking victims.”

The American report contains a large number of recommendations for St. Maarten. among them is this one: “Demonstrate transparency and appropriate follow-through regarding the investigation of government officials’ alleged involvement in the licensed brothels.”

Other recommendation relate to identifying and assisting potential victims of sex trafficking, the vigorous prosecution of trafficking offenders “including officials,” outreach by a Spanish speaking victim advocate, and routine health inspections at local brothels.

The report commends St. Maarten for its new penal code that contains an article that punished trafficking by 4 to 24 years of imprisonment.

But in practice, St. Maarten is dealing with potential trafficking victims in a different way. The report notes that women that escape from brothels routinely face deportation, while anti-trafficking investigations into the circumstances that inspired them to escape are not forthcoming. “The government reported that foreign trafficking victims could be granted temporary residence permits, it did not provide evidence that it issues such permits during the year. Also, the government did not report that it had a policy to protect identified victims from being punished for crimes committed as a direct result of being trafficked.”

Another point of criticism is that the government did not initiate any awareness campaigns to educate the public about sex trafficking and forced labor. The government has also not identified “incidents of foreign child sex tourism in St. Maarten,” the report concluded. – By Hilbert Haar –TSXM