~ Owner says “I just want my boat” ~
PHILIPSBURG–Boat manager United States citizen Yamiv Eliyahu accuses the St. Maarten Prosecutor’s Office and the Anti-Corruption Taskforce TBO of illegally confiscating a yacht and demands its immediate return.
In an interview with The Daily Herald on Tuesday, Eliyahu, who manages the yacht on behalf of United States (US) citizen Stephen Angelo Dimarco, presented a number of documents of mega-yacht Jefe which was confiscated by the officials in Anguilla in June 2018 and was considered seized by them since then.
The reason for the seizure had to do with the “Emerald” case involving local businessman O’Neal Arrindell. The Prosecutor stated that by means of seizure and sale of this yacht, the Prosecutor’s Office is trying to recover part of the profits Arrindell gained through criminal activity.
“How can you seize a boat that does not belong to the suspect? I have the proof, documents, and past and current mortgage payment bills for years on the boat. It does not belong to Arrindell,” said the frustrated Miami businessman.
“I met O’Neal Arrindell years ago. We do business together. I do yacht, car, home, jet, limo rentals in the US. For years Arrindell and his family have been coming to the States and I rent to them based on the request they have when they visit. We developed a business relationship over the years and when I come to the island, he also assists me. A mutual business relationship for years. My company Yacht Charters of Miami manages the vessel.
“I first learned about the seizure of the boat when six months ago I came to the island and brought the boat to the island on vacation in 2018. I decided to leave the boat on the island for maintenance at Bobby’s Marina in Philipsburg. The boat was being worked on and Arrindell visited the site from time to time to check if everything was good with the boat.
“I was then told by Arrindell in August that the boat needed to be moved because Bobby’s Marina needed the space. I authorised Arrindell to move the boat and based on his suggestion, Arrindell said that the boat would be well looked at in Anguilla. He also requested to use the boat for the annual August Monday festival on that island. He and his family would be on the boat while it was taken to Anguilla,” said Eliyahu.
“I told him of course, enjoy time with the family.”
When the boat arrived on the island of Anguilla, the day after, Eliyahu was informed that the boat was stolen and nowhere to be found. He decided to instruct the captain of the vessel to file an official police report. One hour later, he was informed that the boat was not stolen but confiscated by the Coast Guard on the orders of the Prosecutor Office.
While in the US still, Eliyahu hired local attorney Jairo Bloem to contact authorities and get more information about his boat being confiscated.
“In June 2018, Mr. Bloem represented me and hit the ground running by contacting the Prosecutor’s Office, and requested a number of documents from me. I was told by the lawyer that they have seized it in connection with the detention of Mr. Arrindell and an ad will be placed in the local media to put up the boat for auction.
“After a number of emails and letters back and forth between myself and Mr. Bloem, I instructed him to place an ad in the newspaper stating that the prosecutor is selling my boat illegally without due process. I was boldly told by Mr. Bloem that he cannot place the ad in the paper and that I should not tell him what to do. I immediately informed him in August last year that I no longer need his services and hired attorney Shaira Bommel on recommendation of a friend,” stated Eliyahu on Tuesday.
Not trusting the situation, he hired a maritime lawyer from the US and filed a federal lawsuit against St. Maarten’s Prosecutor’s Office in Miami in October 2018. In the suit, the owner stated, “STEPHEN ANGELO DIMARCO, (hereinafter ‘DIMARCO’), by and through their undersigned counsel, and pursuant to the General Maritime Law of the United States, respectfully sues PUBLIC PROSECUTOR’S OFFICE OF SINT MAARTEN, (hereinafter ‘PROSECUTOR’).
“This is a suit for maritime torts, arising out of incidents that occurred on or about July 23, 2018, on or around 6:45am, when M/Y JEFE, (ex: M/Y LADY LISSETTE) (hereinafter ‘VESSEL’), was boarded and unlawfully seized by the Sint Maarten Coast Guard on the high seas and/or within navigable waters of Anguilla territory at the direction of Defendant, PROSECUTOR.
“At all times material hereto, DIMARCO’S claims against Defendant, PROSECUTOR, present an admiralty or maritime case within the Jurisdiction of the United States and this Honorable Court pursuant to Article III, section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, 28 U.S.C.,” according to the draft suit copy obtained by this newspaper.
“I came down to the island and started to ask questions myself. I went to the Coast Guard and spoke to an officer who told me that I won’t be able to see the boat and would have to go to the Prosecutor’s Office. I visited the office and the secretary told me that I have to contact my attorney. Meanwhile, I am getting photos of the boat being cleaned up and fuel tanks being placed on the boat, as if it is getting ready to be sold.
“I was informed by Attorney Bommel that the judge dealing with Arrindell case deemed that the boat is indeed not the property of Mr. Arrindell, but they suspect that the ownership is part of a scheme and therefore they are keeping the boat.
“How is it that I was not interviewed by anyone? I provided countless documents via my lawyer to the prosecutor and with not a word back. I am being informed that a judge made the decision to keep the boat and sell it on behalf of St. Maarten,” said Eliyahu.
“This is absurd and I demand to get my boat back. I showed proof of payments dating a year back. I am a US citizen, they have no right to take my boat and say it belongs to somebody else. From what I understand, when Arrindell went to Anguilla, he placed the names of his children on the boat. The prosecutor told my lawyer that the names were painted on the boat and therefore it belongs to Arrindell.
“I have never heard anything so ridiculous in my life. Years ago, the Florida state lottery rented my boat. They placed stickers, flags of their organisation on the boat. Does it mean they own it too?
“When I came to the island, I registered the boat at the local Coast Guard. At no time was the boat sold or rented to Arrindell.
This newspaper contacted the TBO for comment on the particular case. Spokesman Roderick Gouverneur was asked whether anyone claimed the boat. He responded by stating, “Yes. This person started court procedures to re-claim the boat and to stop the sale of the boat, but has lost the procedure.”
According to Gouverneur, the boat has not yet been sold, but the Prosecutor’s Office is busy with the sale.
As for the documents proving the ownership of the US-documented vessel, Gouverneur maintains that the judge ruled that this person was not right. The judge found, just like the Prosecutor, that it was a sham construction. Gouverneur was asked to provide the verdict from the judge, but he stated, “Yes, there is a verdict, but that was in a closed council chamber session so there is no public verdict we can provide.”
The case against Arrindell will be called on February 14 via a pro forma hearing, followed by the content hearing on March 21. Gouverneur made it clear that the prosecutor will be selling the boat.
This newspaper also obtained an e-mail from the auctioneer estimating the boat at 550,000 euros and that the prosecutor would be satisfied if they get up to 350,000 euros for the luxury boat.
The fight for his boat continues as the boat owner requests clarity on the urgency for the Prosecutor’s Office to sell his property to the highest bidder.
“The prosecutor informed us that the names of Arrindell’s children were painted. However, I received a photo on Tuesday and the names were peeling off, proving that the names were stickers and not painted. I do not know what shady stuff is going on with procedures in St. Maarten, but to me it is clear. I am a US citizen; my boat is a US-registered boat. The Prosecutor’s Office has no right to sell my property and I want it back!” stated Eliyahu.
He says he will continue to fight to get his boat back.