PHILIPSBURG--Judge Koos van de Ven decided on Thursday to adjourn the preliminary hearing in the so-called "Orca" trial until next week Tuesday, to consider requests of the defence for additional investigations and the hearing of witnesses.
It is not yet known when the actual court case will be heard, but in any case not before mid-January 2015; most likely in March or April 2015.
In the trial, Member of Parliament (MP) Patrick Illidge (48) will be charged with accepting bribes from Bada Bing and Lunteren N.V. owner Jaap Van den Heuvel (48) for the total amount of US $150,000, between October 2010 and September 2012.
In exchange for the money, Illidge was to use his power and influence to favour the Bada Bing owner in ensuring the Ministry of Economic Affairs would grant adapted permits to the nightclub and seek a change in its official registered address from Maho Shopping Centre to Sr. P. Houtman Road in Simpson Bay.
Illidge also was to promote extended opening hours for Bada Bing and seek the extension of work permits for several female employees. According to the Prosecutor's Office, these are all violations of Article 379 of the Penal Code.
Illidge was also charged with possession of an illegal firearm; a nine-millimetre Ruger.
The indictment against Van den Heuvel consists of eight charges, including the alleged bribery of MP Illidge.
The Bada Bing owner was also charged with money laundering to the amount of NAf. 1,767,031, and of membership in a criminal organisation. Together with the other suspects, Van den Heuvel would have been involved in various criminal activities, among which were forgery, money laundering, bribery, tax evasion, trafficking of women and the employment of women without a work permit.
The Prosecutor's Office also charged Van den Heuvel with forgery of a commercial lease agreement.
Lunteren N.V. and its employee K.E.v.d.B. (41) were separately indicted. The company was also charged with involvement in money laundering, trafficking of women, tax evasion and violation of the ordinance on the employment of foreign labourers.
Van den Heuvel is at the centre of the Bada Bing corruption case, which surrounds a videotape of Illidge apparently accepting banknotes from Van den Heuvel while the two discuss business permits. Illidge had said it concerned repayment of a loan.
Attorneys Ralph Richardson and Cor Merx both requested the Prosecutor's Office to provide the Attorney-General's order to launch the investigation, as well as the authorisation to involve national detectives from Aruba. Merx also requested the financial administration to be returned to his client.
A number of persons were already questioned during the earlier stages of the investigations, including former Justice Minister Roland Duncan, Immigration and Naturalisation Department (IND) head Udo Aron, Minister of Economic Affairs Romeo Pantophlet and MP Theo Heyliger.
Merx submitted by far the longest list of additional witnesses, which included the names of former Chief Prosecutor Hans Mos, owner of three adult entertainment centres Etienne "Toochie" Meyers, as well as Van den Heuvel's business administrator and one of his bouncers.
Both attorneys also requested additional investigations into the videotape. They claim there are two versions of the tape; one which was published by The Daily Herald, and one by Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf.
According to one tape, Van den Heuvel took three packs of banknotes from the vault in his office, whereas on the other tape it can be seen that he took three stacks from a drawer in his desk.
Merx claimed the tapes may have been manipulated and requested a forensic investigation, which should also include the synchronisation of image and sound.
The sound was recorded on Van den Heuvel's telephone, he said, when asked by his attorney whether a laptop was used.
Except for the bouncer, the Prosecutor objected to the hearing of witnesses because she deemed this "irrelevant" and "without additional value."
The Judge said he would consider all requests and would present his decision on Tuesday morning.
The actual hearing of this case was scheduled for January 14-15. However, presiding Judge van de Ven will be leaving St. Maarten as per October 1, as was announced last week. His replacement will not be installed before January 1, 2015. Therefore, the planned hearings on January 14 and 15 are to be rescheduled until a later date to allow the new Judge some extra time to settle himself. A new date for the trial will be set during the court session of January 14, it was announced.