Court of Appeal hands down sentences in election fraud case



PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — The Court of Appeal has banned the main suspect in the “Octopus” election fraud case former Member of Parliament Silvio J. Matser from standing in an election or holding public office for the next 5 years.

Along with the revocation of his passive voting right, S.J.M. was also sentenced to six months imprisonment; three months conditional.

The “Octopus” investigation looked into electoral fraud during the August 29, 2014 parliamentary elections on St. Maarten. It revolved around the buying of votes from 11 inmates of the prison in Pointe Blanche.

S.M.’s co-suspect F. received a sentence of four months imprisonment. Of those, two months are conditional.

Both S.J.M. and F. each received a three-year probation.

S.J.M. claimed that this case, investigated by the National Detectives (Landsrecherche), affected his political career. The vote-buying occurred during the first election S.J.M. contested and won a place in Parliament.

The Court of Appeal stated in its verdict that S.J.M.’s own actions would be to blame for any career hindrance.

The Court of Appeal pointed out that democracy is the pillar of the society and the way S.J.M. and F. acted undermined this process. This is even more pronounced when a (then) MP candidate was involved. This further undermined public trust in public officials.

E.R., an accomplice, was convicted of violation of professional secrecy, which as a civil servant he took an oath to not break. The Court of Appeal levied a two-month conditional prison sentence with two-year probation.