Money laundering case against Standard Trust falls apart

POSTED: 11/29/12 3:25 PM

St. Maarten – The money laundering case against the Standard Trust Company, its directors and its bookkeeper fell apart yesterday when the Common Court of Justice acquitted all defendants of this charge due to procedural violations during the investigation. All defendants were sentenced for failing to report unusual transactions to the Reporting Center for unusual financial transactions MOT to a conditional 10,000 guilders (almost $5,600) fine and 2 years of probation.  In the meantime, the Central Bank has taken away Standard Trust’s license to operate as a trust company.

The charges against Standard Trust, directors Allard Stamm and Corinne de Tullio-Stamm and bookkeeper Jodi Lynn Garner stem from the 2007 investigation into money laundering and fraud allegations against the former head of the immigration department Marcel Loor. The latter used Standard Trust to channel huge amounts of money into his offshore company Santana Ltd.

The court ruled that the urgent house search at the Standard Trust Office on June 21, 2007 was based on the fact that defendant De Tullio-Stamm had refused to hand over documents investigators demanded based on an authorization Criminal Financial Investigation.

Statements from the defendants suggested that before the house search took place, documents had already been handed over. One of these documents is an Account QuickReport that was produced at 3.46 p.m., while the search started four minutes later.

The police report states that the officers on the scene decided to freeze the situation awaiting the arrival of the judge of instruction. The police report does not mention that the QuickReport has been seized, while it also does not appear on a list of confiscated documents that was drawn up after the search.

The court ruled that it is unable to establish on which title the QuickReport was confiscated. This report in combination with the announcement on the day of the house search that Standard Trust had never reported unusual transaction to the MOT must have led to the suspicion that Standard Trust violated the MOT-rules.

Based on the nemo tenetur se ipsum accusare-principle (“No man is bound to accuse himself”) investigators had no right to demand documents from the suspects. But De Tullio-Stamm handed over 27 account books. Because they were obtained based on a procedural violation, the court ruled that the content of these account books has to be excluded from evidence.

About the acquittal of the money laundering charges, the court remarked that there is no direct evidence that the money that was deposited at Standard Trust stemmed from criminal activities.

Marcel Loor deposited a large amount of money cutup in portions that remained below the MOT reporting-limit. “Of the defendants may be demanded that they give an explanation for the origin of the money,” the court noted, adding that the defendants had done this from day one.

“The money was supposedly from an inheritance from a family member of Loor. As a police officer, Loor did not want it to be known in the small community of St. Maarten that he had more money than he earned in his function. That was his reason to establish a legal entity and to deposit the money into the account of that entity.”

This way, the court reasoned, the defendants gave a concrete “more or less verifiable and according to the court not beforehand completely implausible explanation for the money’s origin. The customers were known to Standard Trust and its directors and they had a certain standing. Loor was a police inspector and his partner, Mrs. Craig, worked for the Coast Guard. Under those circumstances the court is of the opinion that Standard Trust and its directors did not know or should have known, or had to suspect, that the money Loor and Craig deposited stemmed from criminal activities.”

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