SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Appeal Court handed down its decision today on the request filed by the Public Prosecutor seeking permission to prosecute Member of Parliament (MP) Christophe Emmanuel.
One of MP Emmanuel’s attorneys Peggy-Ann Brandon, said on Monday that, “I believe this decision is a win for the MP, but also for the country, our people and the Prosecution. The issuance of long lease parcels is of great importance for our people and often the only opportunity to start a business and so participate within our business sector. The contributions support the growth of the economy. The Prosecution brought matter of a policy and procedures for long lease issuances to the attention of all through this case, which undeniably will be addressed, and in doing so has booked a success as well, even if not through a conviction."
The Public Prosecutor petitioned the Court for this permission on April 21, 2020 during the Lockdown in Sint Maarten. The case was handled on October 6th, 2020 via teleconference.
MP Emmanuel accompanied by his attorneys Peggy Ann Brandon and Safira Ibrahim presented the position to the Court that the request should not be granted because while the prosecutor had ample time to investigate, no real effort was undertaken between January and October of this year to complete the investigation.
Requests filed by the defense with the Minister of VROMI to get information and documentation on all long lease issuances over the years were never responded to. The defense yet stated that in order for the issuance by MP Emmanuel as Minister of VROMI to be wrong and a criminal act a comparison with issuances of all other Ministers would be required. This exercise was not done, and it was difficult to understand why in this case the issued parcels should be qualified as a criminal act.
The Appeal Court considered the documentation brought forward by the Prosecution, considered the defense presented and concluded that the formulated suspicions it could not supported by the results of the investigation presented. The Court stated that it could not determine that the actions of the MP thus far could have brought the justified suspicion of having committed the crimes of which he was being accused.
The Court denied the permission sought by the Public Prosecutor.
While pleased with the outcome, the MP and his defense team stated that from this investigation and the entire process much is learned. The MP pledges to use what he has learned through this process, namely how actions can be perceived, the need for policies and processes to be set, to make recommendations to Government so that no other Minister would have to endure what he has endured.
This investigation has damaged his reputation, caused him to be condemned by the “public judges”, even before the prosecution started. Criminal investigations in Sint Maarten are an instant condemnation by financial institutions, insurance companies and governmental bodies, all focused to eject subjects of investigations out of society. Convictions are no longer needed for this ejection out of society process so innocent until proven guilty is no longer the norm. This is another lesson learned one with many aspects that will be addressed in the coming days by the MP.