Election fraud case in court next week

POSTED: 02/12/14 10:42 AM

Four police officers and one UP-representative charged

St. Maarten – Four former police officers that sold their vote ahead of the September 2010 elections to the United People’s party will stand trial for election fraud next week Monday at 1.30 p.m., together with Roy Heyliger, a representative of the UP party and an uncle of party leader Theo Heyliger. 

Prosecutor Tineke Kamps confirmed yesterday that “a number of police officers” have been summoned to appear in court in what has been dubbed the Masbangu-investigation. Masbangu are small silver colored fish.

The former police officers are charged with voting for the United People’s party in exchange for money “or to have attempted to get money in exchange for their vote,” a press release from the Public Prosecutor’s Office states. Heyliger is charged with giving money to the other defendants.

In September 2010 three police officers and one member of the voluntary corps VKS sold their vote reportedly for $300 a piece to the United People’s party of Theo Heyliger. The case became public when the officers got into an argument about the division of the money.
The police department investigated the role of its officers and presented a complete report about it to the prosecutor’s office. The case seemed to have been all but forgotten due to lack of manpower at the National Detective Agency and due to more pressing priorities, but it is now ready to go to court after all.
Election fraud carries a maximum penalty of 6 months imprisonment or a fine of $165.

The opinions about selling or buying votes are divided. In 2010, when the story about the vote selling broke, Louis Duzanson – currently chairman of the Good Governance Council, said that there is no law that prohibits buying or selling votes. “There is no transaction,” he said at the time. “”There is only a promise, so that makes it more of a moral issue.”

However, article 132 of the Antillean penal code, like article 126 of the Dutch penal code states the following. “He who on the occasion of a by legal decree called election through gift or promise bribes someone to exercise his or someone else’s voting rights in a certain way, or to not exercise this right, will be punished with a maximum prison sentence of six months or a fine of the third category.”

The penalties are the same for buyers and sellers. In the Netherlands, the maximum fine in the third category is 7,600, or close to $9,900. Under Antillean law the fine is negligible: just 300 guilders, or a bit more than $165.

People who are found guilty of vote buying or selling could also lose their active and/or passive voting rights.


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