By Today Newspaper
GREAT BAY – The men who robbed the casino at the Sonesta Great Bay Beach Hotel on the morning of September 18 of last year had inside knowledge and they escaped with a loot of $300,000 in cash. Yesterday Rignald Gilberto H. and Wilson Rafael H. (different last names) heard the prosecution demand 6 years of imprisonment against them for this robbery. The court will pronounce its verdict in March 16.
Rignald H. confessed that he took part in the robbery. The 36-year old admitted that he did not commit the crime alone, but that he had not been the one with the gun. He declined to name the other robber. “I fear for my life,” he told the court, adding that he had tied up staff members by their feet after pushing them into a room. H claims that he did not get any money for his role in the robbery.
After the robbers fled the casino, police quickly got a sniff of one of the suspects, Wilson H. He was spotted in Sucker Garden, fled when he saw the police and abandoned his case on arch road after a chase whereby police officers fired shots at him. In the car, officers found almost $200,000 – part of the loot from the robbery. What happened to the missing $100,000 remains for now a mystery. The prosecution intends to initiate a procedure against the suspects after their conviction to seize their criminal profits.
Wilson H. denied his involvement in the robbery, but court registrar Last, who is also a judge in training and who got the opportunity to question this defendant, pointed out that the Dutch Forensic Institute NFI had found DNA-trace evidence that matches his profile and that two witnesses had recognized him in a photo confrontation.
Wilson H. also denied that he knew his co-defendant, even though the NFI had found DNA traces in his car that matched Rignald H.’s profile.
Wilson H., who worked as a gypsy cab driver before his arrest, told the court that he had given someone a ride on the day of the robbery and that this person had put two bags in his car that later turned out to contain the money from the robbery.
Rignald H. has convictions to his name in the Netherlands, France and Curacao. Wilson H, also has a criminal record – for theft, ill-treatment and armed robbery.
Prosecutor Maarten Noordzij said that St. Maarten “got tommy aches” from the large number of armed robberies. “This was one of the more serious robberies – one with large spoils whereby the suspects acted on inside information. They knew there was a lot of money to be had that day, that the casino was counting money and that the vault was open. They also left with the camera equipment so there is no video footage of the robbery.”
According to the prosecutor, the two men hung around for a while in the casino, sipping drinks, until they went to the cash where they forced staff under threat of a gun to lie down on the floor. Their hands were bound with tie-wraps.
“The evidence is very strong,” Noordzij said. “Defendant Rignald H, has confessed and he reported himself to the police on October 19. “He did not want to mention any names but he accidentally did mention Wilson H.”
The prosecutor pointed to the money found in Wilson H.’s car, to DNA-evidence and to witnesses who recognized the men from pictures.
“Wilson H.’s alternative explanation for the money in his car is highly unlikely,” the prosecutor said.
DNA found on cups the men had used that morning for their drinks in the casino, put the two suspects at the crime scene.
Attorney Geert Hatzmann said that his client Wilson H. had panicked when he saw the police, knowing there was a lot of money in the car of which he suspected that it was not above board. “That is his story, but the prosecution says this is nonsense,” Hatzmann observed.
The attorney expressed surprise about the demand of 6 years. “There is no reward for his confessing co-suspect,” he said, adding that the DNA-evidence does not clinch the case. “Who says that those cups were not in the casino already for two days?”
Hatzmann furthermore noted that the photo-recognitions are not one hundred percent. “The witnesses spoke of 70 to 80 percent certainty, so there is a margin for doubt,” he said. “This has to count in favor of the suspect and this is why I ask the court to acquit my client.”
In an aside, the attorney expressed his disagreement with heavier punishments for robberies large spoils. “Robbing a mini market is much more harrowing. Casinos make a lot of money and they squeeze their personnel dry. Why don’t they invest in better security? 6 Years is high, I think that 2 to 4 years is more reasonable.”
Attorney Sjamira Roseburg asked the court to acquit her client Rignald H. of firearm possession. “My client was a messenger boy, he did not get any money for this,” she said.
Roseburg also asked the court to let her client, who has confessed to taking part in the robbery, serve his prison time in the Netherlands where his children live.
“He made a stupid mistake and he will not benefit from a long prison sentence,” the attorney said, asking the court to impose a large part of the sentence conditional.
That Rignald H. wants to go to the Netherlands has a good reason: “He does not feel safe, he fears for his life in Pointe Blanche.”
Source: 721 news Prosecution demands 6 years against casino robbers