Light sentences in Casablanca case

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Source: Today Newspaper

GREAT BAY – The Court in First Instance imposed much lighter sentences in the Casablanca case than the public prosecutor demanded during the trial on March 14. None of the defendants is going back to prison and the court acquitted them of several charges. The prosecutor’s office is studying the verdicts and has not taken a decision about an appeal yet.

Augusto Theodore McQuincy Reiph, the managing director of the brothel, was sentenced to 730 days of imprisonment, with 385 days conditional, 2 years of probation and a fine of $15,000. Reiph already served the unconditional part of the sentence in pretrial detention.

The court imposed the same sentence on the defendant’s sister Jessica Priscilla.

The prosecution demanded in March 8 years of imprisonment against McQuincy Reiph and 7 years against his sister as well as a 200,000 guilders fine against each.

David Eustace was sentenced to 342 days in prison – equal to the time he already spent in pretrial detention; the prosecution’s demand against him was 4 years of imprisonment.

Their mother Calma Josephine Priest, who owns the Casablanca building, was sentenced to 44 days of imprisonment, equal to the time she spent in pretrial detention. The prosecution’s demand in this case was 5 years of imprisonment. The court acquitted the 68-year old of robbing prostitutes at Casablanca of their freedom, but sentenced her for benefiting from their exploitation by her co-defendants.

The company Casablanca N.V. faced a 30,000 guilders fine from the prosecution, but the court sentenced the entity to a fine of 15,000 guilders.

The court found McQuincy and Jessica Reiph guilty of trafficking in women and human trafficking and of firearm possession. Furthermore, the siblings are guilty of fiscal fraud by not submitting timely returns for turnover tax and profit tax.

The court acquitted these two main defendants of several charges. There is no evidence that they robbed the prostitutes who worked in Casablanca of their freedom, the court ruled. Furthermore, they were acquitted of intentionally under-reporting turnover tax, and of forgery.

The defendants did under-report their turnover tax, but the court ruled that there is no evidence they did this on purpose. Casablanca is of the opinion that it does not have to pay turnover tax over the income of the prostitutes and that the women should report this income themselves. This opinion is shared by other clubs on the island.

“It is a fact that the tax inspectorate has never before objected to this opinion towards Casablanca,” the ruling states. “Casablanca did not report the income of the women for the turnover tax for years while it must have been clear to the tax inspectorate that these revenues existed.”

The court ruling refers to the situation in the Netherlands where the tax inspectorate already in 2008 gave brothel-operators the option to regulate the fiscal aspects of their business. “It is unfair to level now a serious criminal reproach against Casablanca, as if this were a case of intentional and secretive tort of the tax inspectorate.”

The court ruling also puts the most serious part of the charges – trafficking in women, human trafficking and exploitation – in perspective, even though it arrived at a guilty verdict.

“It is correct that there was a situation of abuse in Casablanca but the responsibility for its continued existence for years cannot be  attributed completely to Casablanca,” the ruling states. “Where Casablanca should have realized that it should have handled women in a vulnerable position more carefully, the country St. Maarten could have called Casablanca sooner to order by, after controls, pointing out the difficult situation of the women.”

For more detailed information about this court case, see related story on page 3: The Casablanca case: Telling that women came back to work more than once).