Colade-case hearing scheduled for May 10

PHILIPSBURG–The Court of First Instance on Thursday set the procedural hearing in the so-called Colade case involving embezzlement, theft and forgery committed at the Tourism Bureau and East Caribbean Destination Management Company (ECDMC) for May 10. Main suspects in this case are former Head of St. Maarten Tourist Bureau Regina LaBega (57), and ECDMC’s managing directors Fabian Badejo (66) and E.A.I. F. (37).

All suspects, including ECDMC, will have to answer to charges of embezzlement in employment, theft, forgery, and tax evasion. During Thursday’s session, Prosecutor Nanouk Lemmers read out the voluminous indictments.

LaBega was the only suspect present during Thursday’s hearing. She will be represented in this case by attorney Shaira Bommel. The other suspects will be represented by lawyer Safira Ibrahim.

The three suspects were arrested May 30, 2016, based on “complaints” filed by then Head of the Finance Department Bas Roorda in November 2010. They were released three days later.

Detectives have been busy with the investigation into staff working at St. Maarten Tourism Bureau for quite some time. National Detectives conducted house searches at five different locations on October 15, 2015. The investigation resulted in a number of sub-investigations, which led to an extensive case file.

Among charges is the embezzlement of US $142,000 in payments to ECDMC from an account at J.P. Morgan Chase Bank in New York which were not meant to cover the operational cost of the New York Tourist Office (NTO), or for activities and expenditures which were not directly related to the North-American market.

The suspects will also be charged with money-laundering to the amount of $140,000, Lemmers said.

The suspects were also charged with embezzlement of almost US $27,500 at the Tourist Bureau between December 3, 2008, and October 21, 2010, in using Chase Bank cheques for other purposes.

LaBega will also have to answer to allegations that she committed forgery in writing a job letter.

All defendants are also suspected of membership in a criminal organisation between September 2008 and June 2011, aimed at committing crimes, such as embezzlement and evasion of profit, income and wage tax.

The charges will not be discussed during the May-10 hearing. On that day, the lawyers will have the opportunity to request additional investigations and the hearing of witnesses.

Source: The Daily Herald