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Five searches were related to Tourism Bureau investigation

~Regina, Badejo under investigation~


PHILIPSBURG--The five searches conducted on Thursday were related to a “criminal” investigation into “irregularities” at the St. Maarten Tourism Bureau, which the Prosecutor’s Office has named investigation “Colade,” the office said in a press release on Friday.

The Prosecutor’s Office released only the initials of three persons whom it said were the subjects of the investigation. Under investigation are former Tourist Bureau Head and current Princess Juliana International Airport Director Regina Labega, identified in the release by her initials R.L., former newspaper editor and journalist Fabian A. Badejo, identified in the release by his initials F.A.A.B. and a third person identified as E.F.

The Prosecutor’s Office said the house searches were led by the Judge of Investigation at the request of the Public Prosecutor. “All five searches were performed in an ongoing criminal investigation that is related to irregularities found at the St. Maarten Tourism Office,” the brief release said. The office indicated no arrests were made and “no further information can be disclosed.”

The searches on Thursday included checks at Labega’s private home and at airport her office, as well as at Badejo’s home in Defiance. Both Badejo and Labega’s attorney believe that the searches were politically motivated, with Badejo claiming that “politicians and very high people in government” have been gunning for Labega’s downfall.

Prosecutor Gonda van der Wulp had said on Thursday that computers and office equipment were amongst the items confiscated after the searches. She said too that these items now have to be analysed to determine whether they contain any “evidence” in the ongoing investigation.

Badejo confirmed that his home had been searched during a radio interview on PJD2. He speculated that his relationship with LaBega was the reason for his home being subjected to a search, but said he nor Labega had “nothing to worry about.” He said too that he believed the searches had been purely political.

“That (Badejo’s relationship with LaBega) may be the real target because there are politicians and very high people in government who are embroiled in the present situation, who had been bragging at the Cigar Lounge and all over the place that they are out to get her and, well, obviously this falls within that same pattern,” Badejo said. “But, at the end of the day I believe that her innocence and my innocence will prevail, and I have absolutely nothing to worry about and she doesn’t either,” Badejo noted in the interview.

Merx said he was taken aback as to why after the passing of so many years after an allegation had been levelled against his client about Tourist Bureau related matters and after everyone had been acquitted of charges in that case, that her home and office had been searched.

He said the searches had to be politically motivated because it occurred many years after the Tourist Bureau investigation began and weeks into screening matters of Labega at the Airport. He is convinced that there is a “witch hunt” against his client.