PHILIPSBURG–The dispossession claims filed by the Prosecutor’s Office against the owner and manager of the El Capitan and Le Petit Chateau brothels to the tune of almost US $4 million were rejected, the Court of First Instance announced on Wednesday. In April 2019, brothel owner Etienne “Tochi” Meyers (68) and El Capitan’s manager Dulcea Felomina Florentina (58) were found guilty of human trafficking, exploitation of brothel workers, deprivation of liberty and illegal employment in the so-called “Pompei” investigation.
Meyers and Florentina were both found guilty of crimes committed between January 2013 and September 30, 2016, against 42 women from the Dominican Republic and Colombia who were employed at the two brothels.
For these crimes the Court sentenced Meyers to payment of a NAf. 1 million fine and three years suspended on two years’ probation. Manager Florentina was sentenced to two years suspended on three years’ probation and a NAf. 500,000 fine. Meyers and Florentina both filed appeals.
During the preliminary hearing in this case, the Prosecutor announced that main suspects Meyers and Florentina would also be confronted with a dispossession claim of US $4,959,406.66.
The amount was based on calculations by the Kingdom Detectives Cooperation Team RST in St. Maarten of the “illegally obtained benefits,” consisting of business turnover, with reduction of an average monthly percentage of 16.82 per cent for exploitation cost.
However, the judge stated in his decision that the estimated cost of operation was too low because amounts for housing, utilities and personnel were not included.
The Judge in the criminal case had considered it proven that the women who were employed at the two brothels were being exploited because their salaries were too low.
However, the Judge in the dispossession case said the boundary between exploitation and proper conduct of business did not seem to be clearly defined. “There apparently is a grey area where criminal liability is concerned, as it was deemed conceivable that in case of higher salaries for the workers no exploitation would have been found proven.”
The Judge arrived at the conclusion that the Prosecutor’s Office’s “black-and-white” approach, entailing that the entire business turnover should be classified as illegally acquired assets, did not fit with the “reparatory nature” of the seizure of criminal assets.
Since too high an amount of turnover and too little cost had been taken into consideration, the amount of the claim did not correspond to the amounts Meyers and Florentina had actually achieved through crime or the benefits thereof, the Judge said.
The Court said the total amount of operating profit, or in Florentina’s case her total wages, could not be regarded as unlawfully obtained benefits, and based on the case files and the investigations it could not be ascertained which part of the company’s turnover and the manager’s wages should be considered as derived through crime. “Under these circumstances the claim must be rejected,” the Judge concluded.