PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten – The retrial of the case against suspect S.J.M. (52), a former Member of Parliament, took place in court today Wednesday, September 5, 2018. The suspect was absent during the January 31, 2018 hearing, therefore the case had to be retried.
S.J.M. was sentenced by verdict on February 21, 2018 in the OCTOPUS investigation. S.J.M. was sentenced to the maximum 8 months imprisonment for electoral bribery, of which two-months were conditional with a probation period of 2 years. S.J.M. was also denied the right to be elected to Parliament for a period of 5 years. In its verdict of February 21, 2018 the court did not find the suspect guilty of participation in a criminal organization.
Today, the Public Prosecutor again asked the court to sentence S.J.M. to 2 years imprisonment and to deny the suspect the right to be elected to parliament for 5 years.
The Public Prosecutor supported the request to the court with the following statement.
“I speak here with hope that the term ‘vote buying’ will finally be deemed an offense. This is not because the Public Prosecutors Office and the St. Maarten National Detectives does not want to investigate and prosecute if necessary, but primarily because country St. Maarten and her people deserve better. If we allow vote buying to take place, we allow persons with financial means to actually buy their seat in Parliament. Vote buying has been a crime on St. Maarten for years.”
The OCTOPUS investigation looks into electoral fraud during the August 29, 2014 parliamentary elections on St. Maarten. This investigation encompasses a total 20 suspects, a number of which were already sentenced. The cases against suspects F.L.A (48), J.B. (31) and R.Y. (34) continued on Wednesday afternoon.
The suspects did not appear in court, but nevertheless the Prosecutor asked the court to convict J.B. and R.Y. to a conditional prison sentence of three months and a fine of USD $100. J.B. and R.Y. were incarcerated prior to the elections and sold their vote for USD $100 to suspect S.J.M’s organization. The Prosecutor asked the court to acquit suspect F.L.A. because of lack of evidence.
The court will render its verdict on September 26, 2018 at 8:30am.