Published On: Thu, Nov 29th, 2018

First preliminary hearing in ‘Catfish’ case postponed

Theo HeyligerPHILIPSBURG - The first preliminary hearing in the “Catfish” investigation, in which Member of Parliament (MP) Theodore Heyliger (48) and co-suspect J.M.S. (70) are the main suspects, which was scheduled to take place at the Courthouse on Wednesday morning, was postponed until a later date in 2019.

In the Catfish investigation Heyliger and J.M.S. are both charged with having attempted to bribe former MP Romain Laville in or around the period of September 1, 2012, to July 25, 2013.

The suspicion is that both suspects made various promises to the former MP with the intention that Laville would give up his seat in Parliament, thus withdrawing support for the then Wescot-Williams II Cabinet.

Sums of money ranging from “US $135,000 or $250,000 to $350,000” were promised to Laville. A parcel of land for Laville or members of his family along with a post as Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) in the then new Cabinet to be formed were also promised, all of this if Laville “obliged by giving up his seat in Parliament,” according to the Prosecutor’s Office.

Any wishes of the defence are discussed during a preliminary hearing, after which the Judge makes a decision on the requests.

The Prosecutor said Wednesday that there were several ongoing procedures which made it impossible to continue with the procedural hearing at this moment.

On August 21, the Joint Court of Justice granted the Prosecutor’s Office the authority to prosecute MP Heyliger. Two weeks later, on September 4, Heyliger’s lawyer Eldon “Peppie” Sulvaran filed a final appeal against the Joint Court’s decision to grant the Prosecutor’s Office permission to prosecute the leader of United People’s (UP) party.

Sulvaran also filed a case against Heyliger’s indictment, which was to be heard by the Joint Court of Justice in a closed-door hearing on Tuesday. However, the hearing did not take place due to procedural problems, the Prosecutor said in explaining the hiccups to the Court.

According to the Prosecutor’s Office, it is not possible to file for “cassation” with the Supreme Court against a decision to prosecute a suspect, “but Sulvaran is thinking otherwise,” the Prosecutor said.

S.’s lawyer Geert Hatzmann made the proposal to handle his client’s case separately from Heyliger’s. Hatzmann said his 70-year-old client is “burdened, scared and depressed” by this case which generated much media attention because it also involves the “viceroy” of St. Maarten.

The Judge did not immediately take a decision to separate the two cases and suspended the procedural hearing indefinitely.

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