Tour operator gets five years for cocaine and firearm possession | THE DAILY HERALD

PHILIPSBURG–Antonio de Windt (42), a tour operator and taxi driver, was sentenced Wednesday to five years imprisonment for possession of 32.8 kilos of cocaine, a firearm and thirteen pieces of ammunition, according to the Prosecutor’s demand.

De Windt was arrested February 9 after the police received an anonymous tip stating that a man was seen placing two black bags in a white van in the vicinity of Auto Depot in Cole Bay, after which a firearm allegedly fell on the ground. The man allegedly picked up the weapon and drove off in the direction of the Kruythoff roundabout.

The anonymous person called again shortly afterward and, based on directions provided, the van eventually was stopped near the former Sonesta Great Bay Beach Hotel.

The suspect was the only person in the vehicle. Two large sports bags containing a number of cocaine “bricks” were found in the back of the van, but no firearm.

De Windt was arrested and taken to the police station where he gave permission for a house search and provided the code to a safe. According to the defendant, money and two firearms were to be found in the safe. One firearm was his while the other weapon allegedly belonged to an acquaintance.

In the safe, a firearm, a cartridge clip, almost US $50,000 in cash, a vacuum sealing device and more cocaine bricks were found. Forensic investigations revealed that not all the bricks contained cocaine; some were filled with sugar.

The defendant stated that his acquaintance “Moreno” had called him on February 9 via WhatsApp asking him if he could do him a favour. He asked De Windt to receive two bags at the Ace parking lot in Cole Bay and to keep these for him until the next day. According to Moreno, there was “nothing dangerous” in the bags.

The suspect then received a call from an unknown Spanish-speaking man who informed him that a friend of his would be bringing the bags. A brown Mitsubishi Lancer parked next to the suspect’s van. Without saying a word, an unknown man placed two bags in the van. The suspect then drove off and was arrested.

De Windt said he did not know what was in the bags, but according to the Prosecutor’s Office, the bags contained bricks similar to those that were found in the safe.

According to the defendant, Moreno was the evil genius in this case, but asked about the man’s whereabouts and personal information, he had declined to provide the police with any verifiable information, including a telephone number.

Therefore, the Prosecutor held De Windt responsible for the possession of almost 33 kilos of cocaine and a firearm with ammunition.

“The suspect apparently did not care about the risks and dangers associated with drugs and firearms, and has only been guided by his own financial gain,” said the Prosecutor, who called for confiscation of the cocaine, the firearm, the ammunition and the sum of $49,630 found in a backpack in the safe. According to the Prosecutor, the van and two mobile phones should also be forfeited.

De Windt contested that the cocaine and money belonged to him. He said that some $16,000 were his savings, but the bulk of the money belonged to Moreno. He said he was a hardworking man and law-abiding resident of St. Maarten for 26 years, but admitted that he had failed to file for taxes.

Attorney-at-law Safira Ibrahim pleaded for her client’s acquittal. She claimed his arrest was illegal, as he had been halted for the alleged possession of a firearm, but no weapon had been found.

She also disputed that her client had been aware of the contents of the bags. “My client had no idea why he was arrested,” she said, and he had also not been aware that his friend Moreno was involved in illegal activities.

She said there was insufficient evidence in the casefile to prove that her client had been involved in the cocaine trade and contested the alleged amount.

The Judge said there was sufficient evidence to consider the defendant guilty as charged. His arrest was considered legal. “The anonymous caller may not have seen everything correctly, or maybe it was an enemy of the defendant,” the Judge said. A report of a firearm would definitely alarm the police, it was stated.

The Court sentenced the defendant according to the Prosecutor’s demand, including confiscation of the amount of $49, 630 in cash, the van and two phones.

Source: The Daily Herald