PHILIPSBURG:— On Wednesday, February 21, the Court of First Instance announced the verdict for three of the main suspects in the combined investigations “Octopus” and “Grastelchi”; concerning an investigation into electoral fraud during the August 29th, 2014 parliamentary elections on St. Maarten.
S.M. deemed the main perpetrator received the maximum sentence of 8 months imprisonment for electoral bribery, of which two-months are conditional and a probation period of 2 years.
Under the old electoral law, perpetrators of electoral bribery received a 6-month prison sentence, however because of multiple offenses, the maximum 8-month prison sentence was imposed. Under the new electoral law, effective 2015, electoral bribery has a 2-year prison sentence.
E.R. was convicted as a conspirator in electoral bribery and for breaching confidentiality as a civil servant as prison director of the Point Blanche Prison. He received the maximum sentence of 160 days imprisonment as a conspirator, of which 80 days are conditional and a probation period of 2 years. As a co-conspirator in electoral bribery, E.F. was sentenced to 6 months in prison, of which 3 months are conditional.
E.R. found guilty of giving a list of eligible voters detained in the Point Blanche Prison to S.M., In turn, S.M. bribed the detainees with $100 to vote for him. E.F. aided S.M. in the monetary distribution within the Point Blanche prison, in order to illegally attain votes.
The court ruled in favor of the prosecution’s claim that there was an offense of “vote buying”, where individuals in the community are influenced to vote for the candidate offering the highest monetary promise, rather than the candidate most competent for the role. Thus damaging the reputation of St. Maarten’s democratic system.
This combined investigation involves a total 21 suspects. The three main suspects have now been sentenced; 6 suspects are still to be prosecuted; the case against 9 suspects will be dismissed; 2 suspects have in the meantime been murdered, therefore cleared of the crime and 1 suspect is untraceable.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office of St. Maarten will be extra vigilant throughout the upcoming election on signs of vote buying and selling. Persons with information on these activities are asked to contact the National Detective Agency (Landsrecherche Sint Maarten) – if preferably anonymously at telephone number: +1721-522-5810.