Accused lawmaker returns to St. Maarten


Associated Press

Posted on March 10, 2013 at 5:36 PM

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten (AP) — A St. Maarten legislator at the center of a bribery probe returned Sunday to the Dutch Caribbean country and said he was prepared to give his side of the story to investigators.

A video recently made public appears to show lawmaker Patrick Illidge accepting stacks of cash from the manager of a strip club. Authorities have since seized computers and documents from his home and parliament office.

On Sunday, Illidge returned to St. Maarten from an official delegation to the Netherlands. At the airport, he would not comment on the specifics of the allegations against him, but told reporters that "a lot will be revealed in the coming days."

"I have a case. I will speak to you guys when that time is right. It is much bigger than what you're seeing there," Illidge told reporters.

The lawmaker said he is "ready" if the police come to arrest him. He said he would voluntarily report to the public prosecutor's office first thing on Monday morning if he wasn't arrested first.

On Sunday, St. Maarten Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams called on people to wait until the facts were in before rushing to judgment. Illidge is an independent parliamentarian but he is considered part of St. Maarten's governing coalition.

In the Netherlands, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has said he expects St. Maarten authorities to "get to the bottom of this."

Chief Prosecutor Hans Mos said that searches have been conducted at Illidge's home and office as well as the Bada Bing strip club and the Immigration and Naturalization Service Agency. A 29-year-old man found at Illidge's home has been arrested on charges of illegal weapon possession.

St. Maarten investigators are analyzing the seized items as well as the video, which is dated Sept. 30, 2012, and was recently dropped off anonymously at a mailbox of The Daily Herald, a St. Maarten newspaper.

The video shows Illidge putting stacks of what appears to be cash into his pockets. Strip club manager Jaap van den Heuvel had just taken the bundles from a safe inside his business in Simpson Bay.

Van den Heuvel is heard saying in Dutch: "At this moment I only have 15. We're almost there, it's almost arranged, only 30 left. You know what it is, we just had a very (expletive) quiet month. I can't take too much out. If I take too much out, then it will be obvious. Understand what I mean?"

The two men are heard talking about documents needed to secure a club permit as well as extension of employment permits for the dancers. The manager also requested that his business be allowed to remain open until 5 a.m.

Calls to Van den Heuvel have gone unanswered. But he has suggested to Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf that the video only shows him distributing fake money that his Bada Bing strip club uses as promotion.

On Sunday, Illidge said there is more than "meets the eye" to the video and he is confident that the truth will be revealed in coming days.

"I would love to say more but I can't," said Illidge, then hinting that St. Maarten "will see some very dark days" as a result of his revelations.

St. Maarten is a 16-square-mile Caribbean country of roughly 50,000 people that is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It shares an island with the French dependency of St. Martin.