Court reopens hearings in Casa Blanca appeals | THE DAILY HERALD

PHILIPSBURG–The Joint Court of Justice reopened the investigations in the appeals of the so-called “Papegaai” and “Gier” cases on Monday. These involve charges of human-trafficking and deprivation of liberty allegedly committed in Casa Blanca brothel in Oyster Pond and in Hypnotic Hotel and Entertainment N.V. in Sucker Garden between 2010 and 2015.

  The Court was due to give its verdicts in the cases of six suspects on Monday afternoon, but the stated that during its deliberations judges had arrived at the conclusion that the investigations were incomplete.

  During the hearing in the appeal, which took place on September 5, the former operator of the now defunct Hypnotic Hotel and former secretary at Casa Blanca Mayline J. Peterson (43) made an incriminating statement about co-suspect Calma Josephine Priest’s (69) role in explaining the rules at Casa Blanca and the provision of information and instructions to the women working at the adult-entertainment centre.

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  As Priest, who claims she was merely the owner of the Casa Blanca building and its premises and had nothing to do with day-to-day management, had not been present at the hearing, the Joint Court wants to give Priest the opportunity to respond to Peterson’s statement.

  As the case against Priest and those against the other five suspects in this case are closely connected, the Joint Court decided to reopen all these cases at a date to be determined by the Court.

  The Prosecutor had filed for appeal in these cases, as he objected to the acquittals of proprietors and management of Casa Blanca and Hypnotic adult entertainment centres on charges of deprivation of liberty. Besides, he found the punishments for human-trafficking, allegedly committed between 2010 and 2015, too light.

  According to the Solicitor-General, the main reason for the Court of First Instance to impose milder sentences was that the Court found that suspects’ acts could not be separated from the facilitating role of government and its absence when it comes to supervision and inspection.

  Casa Blanca management were convicted of involvement in human trafficking, but acquitted of deprivation of liberty, on April 4, 2017. Managing director Augusto T.M. Reiph (40) and his sister, assistant manager Jessica P. Reiph (47), were both sentenced to two years, one of which was suspended, on two years’ probation.

  Casa Blanca N.V., its manager and assistant manager were each ordered to pay a fine of NAf. 15,000 for non-payment of turnover and profit taxes. Jessica Reiph was also convicted of illegal firearm possession.

  Four members of the family operating the king-size brothel are being prosecuted in the appeal case for human trafficking, illegal restraint and possession of illegal firearms. They also have to answer to charges of a number of tax crimes.

  Peterson was sentenced on February 7, 2018, to 24 months, 12 of which were suspended, on two years’ probation, for the trafficking and exploitation of a number of women working in these two establishments.

  The lesser Court found her guilty of trafficking women and of illegally employing 27 women from Venezuela, Colombia and the Dominican Republic at Hypnotic between January 1 and October 24, 2016.

  She was also found guilty of trafficking and exploiting women at Casa Blanca, where she worked as a secretary from February 1, 2010, to January 26, 2015, but was acquitted of deprivation of liberty of the sex workers involved.

  The Prosecutor’s Office considered the charges proven and demanded long prison sentences last month. The Prosecution found it legally and convincingly proven that a large number of women were exploited for the financial gain of the adult entertainment centre’s owners and managers.

  The Prosecutor’s Office requested six years in prison for manager Reiph and five years and six months imprisonment for his sister. Both defendants also would have to pay NAf. 200,000 in fines for tax crimes or spend 365 days in jail in case of non-compliance.

  The Solicitor-General called on the Court to sentence the owner of the Casa Blanca building to four years. He called for confirmation of the verdict of assistant manager and family member David J. Eustace (34), who was sentenced by the Court of First Instance to 342 days in prison.

  Casa Blanca has to pay a fine of NAf. 30,000, according to the Prosecutor’s Office, which called for Peterson’s conviction for human-smuggling and illegal employment, for which she should be sentenced to three years.

  Defence lawyers pleaded for their clients’ acquittals, denying the charges of human-smuggling, exploitation, deprivation of liberty and tax evasion.

Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/81671-court-reopens-hearings-in-casa-blanca-appeals

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