PHILIPSBURG–On November 22, 2015, Princess Juliana International Airport SXM was rocked by two bomb threats which severely disrupted air traffic and interrupted the regular duties of the Police, Fire Department and other rescue services. The threats also caused major traffic jams on the island as the Airport was cordoned off for six hours. The man who is held responsible for all this mayhem stood trial at the Court of First Instance on Wednesday morning. He heard the Prosecutor call for a prison sentence of 18 months, a US $10,000 fine, and payment of damages.
In total, six phone calls were placed to the emergency number 911 and one to the Airport’s Security Department, between 12:22pm and 3:59pm.
As a result all operations and traffic at and around the Airport were shut down between 12:30pm and 6:00pm, and emergency services were put on high alert.
According to the Prosecutor’s Office, this was the fifth and sixth bomb scare at the Airport last year. That day, the Police received calls from a man with a British-Indian accent informing that a bomb would be detonated before the departure of the Air France flight. The bomb would have been on board of a car that was parked in the Airport parking lot. However, no bombs were found.
The calls were made from a British telephone number, which led the Police to suspect B.A.R. (44). The suspect, who was born in Trinidad, and is residing in London, was in St. Maarten as a competitor in the SXM Aviation Photo Contest TOPPIX 2015. He was arrested on December 25, 2015.
“I did not make those calls,” B.A.R. said as he denied the accusations. He told the authorities that he had lent his two phones to another person from November 5 until November 26.
However, the Police investigations into this case had established that this was highly improbable, the Prosecutor said.
The woman in question had stated she had no reason to lend the suspect’s phone as she had been in possession of two working phones. Besides, the person who had reported the bomb threat clearly had a male voice.
B.A.R., who according to the Prosecutor, had also tried to use a false alibi, was convicted of making a false bomb threat at his former employer in the United States, in May 2005.
The suspect, who is a database developer, was also convicted of fraud. In 2006 and 2007, he posed as a pastor and reportedly defrauded churchgoers of US $126,000 in total, the Prosecutor stated.
According to the Prosecutor’s Office, making false bomb threats is a serious and punishable offence. “It enhances the feelings of insecurity in the community at a time during which the general public is already on high alert concerning (terrorist) attacks.
St. Maarten is a small and, therefore, vulnerable society which, via the Airport, relies heavily on the tourist economy,” the Prosecutor said. As a result of the bomb scare, the Air France flight could not depart until after a long delay, it was added.
The Police, the Fire Department, and organizers of a party which was to take place in the vicinity of the airport, and had to be called off due to the scare, submitted claims for damages.
The Prosecutor’s Office recommended to the Court to award damages to the Police for personnel cost of NAf. 1,034, and NAf. 500 to the Fire Department. The organizer of the “SXM or Bust” party at Pink Iguana bar and restaurant should be compensated with payment of US $582.
Attorney-at-law Safira Ibrahim called upon the Court to acquit her client for lack of evidence. She said her client was not involved in what has been dubbed the “Kabalebo case.”
“My client is known as being a friendly, social, generous and helpful person. He had no motive,” the lawyer said.
She also called upon the Court to reject the claims for damages as these were insufficiently substantiated. The Court will give its decision April 13.
Source: The Daily Herald Prosecutor calls for 18 months for two Airport bomb threats