Published On: Mon, Dec 3rd, 2018

St. Maarten Prosecutor considering appealing Colade case

Courthouse-sxmPHILIPSBURG - The Prosecutor’s Office (OM) said Friday it is considering an appeal in the so-called “Colade” case, because the three suspects in this case were acquitted by the Court of several charges, including money-laundering and membership in a criminal organisation.

All three suspects in this case involving embezzlement and forgery committed at the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau (STB), STB’s New York office and East Caribbean Destination (ECD) Management Company were found guilty by the Court on Wednesday.

The Daily Herald understands that Minister of Tourism Stuart Johnson plans to keep Regina Labega (59) on staff because she intends to appeal the court’s decision. This newspaper asked the minister several questions via email about the move, but received no answer up to Friday evening.

The Prosecutor’s Office public relations office reacted to Labega still working for the tourism ministry on Friday and said, “The standpoint of the Public Prosecutor’s Office is that R.L. should not be working. The judge also agreed with the Public Prosecutor’s Office, hence the conviction in which R.L. is banned from working as a civil servant for five years.”

The Court found it proven that Labega had committed embezzlement in her capacity as a civil servant at STB and had committed tax crimes. The Court said that Labega, as the factual owner of ECD, had misappropriated funds belonging to STB and had used these to enrich herself. These crimes were committed between March 2009 and February 2013.

Labega was sentenced to 12 months suspended, on three years’ probation, and a NAf. 300,000 fine. She was also banned from being a civil servant for a period of five years.

ECD’s co-directors Erica Fortuno (38) and Fabian Badejo (68) were each sentenced to three-month suspended, on three years’ probation and a fine of NAf. 50,000. The company was also fined NAf. 50,000.

During the hearing of this case, the Prosecutor’s Office had called for a NAf. 500,000 fine, 240 hours of community service and a civil-service ban for Labega; and NAf. 80,000 fines and 120 hours of community service for Fortuno and Badejo.

The three suspects are expected to appeal their sentences, as they have maintained their innocence throughout the legal proceedings.

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