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Six suspects convicted in drug-smuggling trial

PHILIPSBURG--The Court of First Instance on Wednesday sentenced six suspects on drug smuggling charges, but acquitted them of membership in a criminal organisation, in what was dubbed the first major drug investigation of the Police Force of St. Maarten.

Main suspect Henry Richinsin (31), aka "Papillon," received the highest sentence of 42 months, six of which were suspended, on three years' probation.

He was found guilty of the transport of various quantities of cocaine between August 6, 2013 and January 29, 2014, among which were also several amounts of cocaine and so-called "bolitas," which were swallowed and ingested by drug-mules on various occasions between April 2011 and February 2014.

Especially co-suspect Sagerdy E. "Gusano" Gumbs (30), who was sentenced to 18 months, eight of which were suspended, on three years' probation, had extensively testified against Richinsin.

For example, Gumbs had informed the Police of how he had started to send cocaine via the Post Office to the Netherlands together with Papillon. The illicit drugs were hidden in hollowed-out books. He also mentioned the preparations of trips of several bolita-swallowers to the Netherlands in cooperation with Papillon and others. Gumbs is currently detained in the Netherlands.

The Court held Richinsin responsible for preparing the import and transhipment of large quanties of cocaine from South America to St. Thomas, as well as the export of cocaine to Europe via couriers, in cooperation with others.

Co-suspect Gilbert O. "Dundu" Wawoe (55) received 24 months, eight of which were suspended, on three years' probation, for his role in the preparation of large-scale drug transport.

Julissa Martinez Bautista (41), who is currently in the Dominican Republic, reportedly for medical reasons, was sentenced to one-year imprisonment for selling small quantities of cocaine from her Internet café in St. Maarten.

In sentencing, the Court took into account that she had failed to appear in Court for her trial, which led the Judge not to impose a partially-suspended sentence.

Randall M. Garraway (32) was sentenced to 360 days, 220 of which were suspended, on three years' probation, with 80 hours of community service. The Court found it proven that the Winair baggage carrier at SXM Princess Juliana International Airport had been instrumental in two shipments of 100 and 500 grams of cocaine from St. Maarten to St. Eustatius.

Juan M. Haddocks (38) received 230 days. Haddocks had denied his involvement in the preparation of drug transports and had said the wire-tapped telephone conversations were only about chickens.

Man gets restraining order in domestic-violence case

PHILIPSBURG--A 43-year-old man was sentenced on Wednesday to eight months, four of which were suspended, on three years' probation, in a domestic violence case. The Court also issued a restraining order banning the man from seeking contact with his spouse during the probation period.

Prosecutor Karola van Nie had requested the Court to sentence Rudolfo Gumbs to eight months, three of which were to be suspended, on three years' probation, for mistreatment and threatening.

Gumbs also appeared before the Judge on November 13, but the hearing of his case was suspended until Wednesday to see whether there were possibilities for treatment at Turning Point rehabilitation centre.

The defendant is struggling with aggression and an alcohol addiction, but denied this and said he wanted to go outside and work to provide for his family.

He was brought before a Judge because he had confronted his wife with a knife and had said he was going to kill her. He had also hit her in the face and had kicked her, but Gumbs largely denied the charges.

He confessed he had punched his wife, but attempted to downplay his drinking problem in stating he only consumed alcoholic-beverages during weekends.

The Prosecutor considered all charges proven. Van Nie said there was evidence that the woman was hurt and a witness of the incident had turned in two knives with the police.

Stating that the defendant did not have any awareness of his own problems, the Prosecutor deemed an integral approach towards his problems with aggression, alcohol and drugs to be warranted.

Attorney Aernout Kraaijeveld pleaded for his client's acquittal. The lawyer claimed the only statement about what had actually transpired between the two spouses in the bedroom and shower was provided by the victim, which was insufficient for a conviction.

The Judge, however, considered both counts proven. "His house is ruled by fear," the Judge said, who added that the defendant did not see his own wrongs and had declined any assistance.

Seven cruise ships in today

POINTE BLANCHE--Today, Thursday, December 18, will be one of the busiest days of St. Maarten's cruise tourism season, a Port St. Maarten press release stated. Seven cruise vessels in port will translate to a combined estimated 18,000 cruise passengers and another 8,000 crew members.

The smallest vessel will be Windstar Cruises' Wind Surf with more than 300 passengers and the largest Freedom of the Seas with more than 3,600. Six of the vessels will be moored along the two cruise piers at Dr. A.C. Wathey Cruise Facility. Wind Surf will arrive early Thursday evening while the other six vessels arrive early in the morning.

The morning arrivals are Regal Princess (3,500+), Norwegian Gem (2,400+), Celebrity Eclipse (2,900+), Costa Mediterranea (2,700+), Celebrity Summit (2000+) and Freedom of the Seas.

"Wherever residents see cruise passengers on Thursday, show them that true St. Maarten hospitality especially in light of the Christmas season. Tourism is everybody's business. Happy holidays," the press release reads.

Basketball official faces six years on rape charges

PHILIPSBURG--The Prosecutor's Office requested six years Wednesday against 49-year-old basketball official E.Y., who is suspected of the sexual abuse of two minors.

Prosecutor Maarten Noordzij held the defendant, who was an official of St. Maarten National Basketball Association (SXMNBA), responsible for raping a 15-year-old boy on April 2, 2014, after he had groomed the child on the Internet, using Facebook, and persuaded him to meet up for a one-to-one coaching session.

The Prosecutor also considered the second charge proven, which involved a series of rapes of a 17-year-old boy, between August 2013 and February 2014, in which he had groomed the child in a similar manner.

A previous hearing, held September 18, was postponed on the Prosecutor's request, as the investigations into further allegations were still ongoing, but Noordzij said Wednesday these had not led to more charges against the defendant.

According to the Prosecutor, Y. had used the same modus operandi to lure his victims. He had met them via the Internet and had promised them a spot on basketball-, baseball- or taekwondo teams and had also promised them a trip to the United States as part of an exchange programme.

He had also offered one of his victims his assistance in obtaining a Dutch passport and a job with the Coast Guard.

In exchange, the boys were submitted to tests and private one-to-one training sessions, during which they were submitted to running and other exercises. These late-afternoon sessions were not held at a basketball- or baseball court, but in a remote area on Mt. Bishop Hill, where they were touched, forced into sexual acts and raped, the Prosecutor said.

Y. denied all charges and said he also did not have gay chats with the victims or any other person and also had not exchanged pictures on the Internet. He denied he had touched the boys or had any sexual contact with them. "Nothing happened," Y. said, who claimed he had seen the 15-year-old "one time."

According to the Prosecutor, there were seven statements in the case file of boys who were approached by the defendant via Facebook-page SXM Sport. "They were influenced and encouraged to make statements against me and these are not correct. The statements were incited by one of the victims," Y. said of the allegation.

Y. is professionally involved in community development and a sports volunteer. He did not have any previous run-ins with the law.

According to the Prosecutor's Office, Y. had been preying on boys for sexual contacts for years, carefully and extensively selecting and approaching them while posing as a sports coach. However, Y. was only involved with SXMNBA's management and financial activities, the Prosecutor pointed out.

Noordzij said the evidence in this case was not only built on statements by the victims, as these were corroborated by a large number of witness' statements and sustained by medical evidence.

One of the victims was raped 15 times in a seven-month period, the Prosecutor said. The victim was threatened with publication of nude pictures and chat messages with a sexual nature in case he would decline to have sexual contact. The Prosecutor said the suspect kept his victims under control by using "a web of lies and threats."

Attorney Brenda Brooks pleaded for her client's acquittal and maintained he was innocent. The lawyer said the allegations against her client were built on gossip and rumours. "My client has been convicted from the beginning of the investigations," Brooks claimed, who also expressed her astonishment about the fact that no psychological report had been drafted in her client's case.

Brooks stated that no DNA or other evidence had been presented to sustain the rape charges and also pointed to discrepancies in the various witness statements. The Court will give its decision on January 7, 2015.

High Court ruling sets limits to politicians’ speech freedom

THE HAGUE--A new ruling by the Dutch High Court sets limits on freedom of speech for politicians and has implications for the case against anti-Islam campaigner Geert Wilders.

The Prosecutor's Office is soon to take a decision on whether or not to press ahead with prosecuting Wilders for inciting hatred after leading a crowd of his Party for Freedom PVV followers in an anti-Moroccan chant earlier this year.

The High Court on Tuesday threw out a lower Court ruling which said an Amsterdam city council candidate was not criminally liable for inciting discrimination and hatred against gay people.

Delano Felter, campaign leader for a fringe republican party, said on television that gay people were deviants and that they should be "booted out."

The lower Court had ruled the statements were permissible under freedom of speech laws because they were made by a politician in the "context of a public debate of general importance."

However, the High Court said that while politicians could shock or insult as part of public debate, they also have a responsibility "to prevent spreading pronouncements which conflict with the law and the principles of a democratic state."

The case against Felter has been referred back to the Appeals Court for a retrial.

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