Census Office in the spotlight with driver’s licenses-fraud

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Sint Maarten Courthouse

 

Attorney at law Ms. Zylena Bary. Photo 721news.com
Attorney at law Ms. Zylena Bary. Photo 721news.com

Court story by Today Newspaper

GREAT BAY – The prosecution demanded conditional prison sentences, community service and fines of 2,500 and 3,000 guilders against a former employee of the census office and a woman with whom he conspired to issue driver’s licenses to people who were not entitled to them.

The facts date back to 2012 when Leona Marlin-Roneo was the head of the census office that issues the licenses. Attorney Zylena Bary told the court that her client, Paul B. was not the only one at the census office involved in the scheme.

(ON QUOTE ) “The national detective agency wanted to know whether Marlin-Romeo was involved in this,” Attorney Zylena Bary said.

Prosecutor Maarten Noordzij demanded a 6-month conditional prison sentence against 36-year old Paul B., 180 hours of community service (or 90 days of imprisonment in case of non-compliance), 3 years of probation and a 3,000 guilders fine. Against Shamwatie S., a 48-year old cashier at a local hardware store, the prosecution demanded a conditional prison sentence of 4 months, 120 hours of community service (or 60 days), 3 years of probation and a 2,500 guilders fine.

The contacts between the woman and Paul B. came about after her daughter had failed her driver’s license exam twice. The mother went out to fix the problem and ended up paying Paul B. “between $400 and $500” for the license and a similar amount for a license for herself. Later she mediated for seven others. These people paid between $650 and $700 to Shamwatie S. who in turn paid Paul B. between $400 and $500. She denied however that she had kept any money for herself.

Prosecutor Noordzij found Paul B. guilty of passive bribery and forgery in his function as a civil servant. Punishments for bribery have gone up in the new criminal code, the prosecutor pointed out. For passive bribery (accepting a bribe) the maximum punishment went from 4 to 5 years and for active bribery from 2 to 4 years.

“If these facts had not taken place so long ago, I would have demanded unconditional prison sentences,” Noordzij said.

Attorney Safira Ibrahim acknowledged that her client Shamwatie S. had confessed to the facts but she insisted that there is no legal evidence against her. “The dossier does not show that Paul B. was a civil servant at the time,” she said. “He has never taken the oath of office as such.”

Ibrahim also contested the forgery-charge, because her client had never shown her driver’s license to anybody.

Attorney Zylena Bary told the court that her client has been punished enough: he was demoted from front office to back office, he paid an 1,800 guilders fine to his employer and his contract e4was terminated per September 15.

She also wondered why her client was the only one from the census office charged with the fraudulent actions. “He could not bring about the issuance of driver’s licenses on his own. There were more people involved. This is not the first time that the census office had its knuckles rapped.”

Bary added that her client had even named a colleague who was involved in the scheme and said that the national detective agency had wanted to know whether the head of the census office (at the time Leona Marlin-Romeo) was involved.

Prosecutor Noordzij dismissed the argument about the status of Paul B. as a civil servant. Quoting a ruling from the Supreme Court, he said that anyone who has been appointed to execute public tasks is considered a civil servant.

The court pronounces its ruling in this case on November 4.