PHILIPSBURG–The pre-trial detention of National Alliance (NA) Member of Parliament (MP) and former Minister of Public Housing, Environment, Spatial Development and Infrastructure VROMI, Christophe Emmanuel and the Chief of his Cabinet while Emmanuel served as Minister, a woman M.A.R., has been extended, announced the Prosecutor’s Office on Thursday afternoon. This is in accordance with Article 87 of the Code of Criminal Proceedings, said the Prosecutor’s Office in a statement. According to the code, any suspect can be held up to two days from the moment he or she is detained. After that, the judge of instruction can agree or disagree with the Prosecutor to extend a suspect’s stay behind bars to eight days. This can be followed by another eight, plus eight more. When those 24 days have passed, the detention can be prolonged up to 60 days, and eventually, if the investigation is still ongoing, an additional 30 days. Based on the country’s laws, by then the case must be presented in court, even if it is just a pro-forma hearing where parties demonstrate what their intentions are. Emmanuel and R. were arrested Tuesday on suspicion of abuse of function and forgery, or complicity in such acts as part of an investigation named “Begonia”. The Prosecutor’s Office said in a press release on Tuesday that the suspects were arrested by the St. Maarten National Detectives. The release said that, after a lengthy investigation, the two were arrested on suspicion of abuse of function and forgery or complicity in such acts, during their tenure at VROMI. “The suspects are accused of unlawfully long-leasing government land to acquaintances at the end of their tenure in 2017. As a result, other applicants were disadvantaged,” it was stated in the release. Emmanuel issued more than 10,000 square metres in long-lease agreements to eight persons (names provided to of whom three were part of his cabinet, including his chief of staff, in late 2017 while he was still VROMI Minister. This was before being ousted by a new coalition in Parliament. The ministerial decrees for all eight persons were signed on December 15, 2017. Former VROMI Minister Miklos Giterson, who took office after Emmanuel,a letter to the Council of Ministers in February 2018, which gave a detailed account of how Emmanuel had signed off on the leases. The leased plots were located opposite utilities company GEBE in Philipsburg. This action went against all advice issued by the VROMI Ministry at the time, Giterson had noted in his letter. The Prosecutor’s Office has neither confirmed nor denied whether this was the reason for Emmanuel’s and R.’s arrest.
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