The Prosecutor’s Office wants to seize from former Member of Parliament (MP) Theodore Heyliger more than US $17 million in what it deems to be criminal proceeds. The prosecutor announced this during a brief sitting of the Court of First Instance on Wednesday morning.
The Prosecutor’s Office will be calling on the court to award a dispossession claim of in total $17,248,565.91 and of NAf. 450,000.
Heyliger was found guilty on May 15, 2020, of accepting bribes from Dutch consultant Ronald Maasdam and Windward Roads BV WWR construction company and of laundering almost $4 million at the taxpayer’s expense. He was sentenced to 60 months in prison.
The Prosecutor’s Office had demanded a prison sentence of six years and six months for Heyliger, who was one of the main suspects in the “Larimar” investigation concerning large-scale corruption in St. Maarten. The case concerned payments of bribes in connection with several major construction projects, among them the causeway bridge, and the laundering of large amounts of money.
The court found it proven that in his capacity as commissioner, minister and MP, Heyliger had accepted bribes from WWR and Central Concrete Mix of almost US $1.6 million and a so-called “credit line” of NAf. 450,000 on behalf of Caribbean International Maritime Co. NV, St. Maarten Shipping and Stevedoring NV and Nichirei Carib Co. NV, and a Dodge Charger with an estimated value of $200,000.
Heyliger was also found guilty of accepting bribes from dredging company Devcon TCI Ltd. to the tune of $700,000 between April 1, 2009, and October 1, 2011, and of receiving gifts from Dutch construction company Volker Construction International BV with a value of $1,065,525 between February 1, 2010, and March 31, 2014.
He was also convicted of having concealed the proceeds of the sale of real estate – the Mullen property and two plots of land in Oyster Pond – between September 9, 2011, and February 12, 2019.
The Court of First Instance found it proven that Heyliger had taken bribes from several companies in exchange for government procurement and to canvas his relationships with these companies. “The bribes made projects unnecessarily expensive. This money had to be raised by the taxpayer,” the Court stated at the time.
The $17-million dispossession claim includes not only the criminal proceeds in the Larimar investigation, but also money “earned” by other crimes of which Heyliger has not been convicted, it was explained.
In the dispossession procedure it was agreed that Heyliger’s lawyer Eldon Sulvaran will respond to the Prosecutor’s Office’s claims in writing on or before April 9, after which the prosecutor is to submit his written response to the lawyer’s arguments.
A formal hearing is expected to take place by mid-year. Parties did not file requests for additional investigations or the hearing of witnesses.
Between 2007 and 2010, Heyliger was a commissioner with responsibility for tourism and economic affairs, the port, infrastructure and public works. From October 10, 2010, until May 21, 2012, he was Vice-Prime Minister and Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI. After the then-cabinet fell, he did not fulfil a public function until October 2013, after which he became an MP. He did not run in the election of January 2020.
Heyliger was arrested in the Larimar investigation on February 19, 2019. His preliminary detention was suspended for medical reasons on May 21, 2019. He has denied all allegations.
SOURCE: THE DAILY HERALD