PROMINENT CASINO OWNER CONVICTED OF MONEY LAUNDERING AND DRUG TRAFFICKING IN DUTCH COURT

Identifier: 
06PARAMARIBO28

UNCLAS PARAMARIBO 000028

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/CAR - LLUFTIG
DEPT FOR INL/LP NBOZZOLO, KBROWN
CARACAS FOR LEGATT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SNAR, KCRM, PGOV, PREL, ECON, NS
SUBJECT: PROMINENT CASINO OWNER CONVICTED OF MONEY
LAUNDERING AND DRUG TRAFFICKING IN DUTCH COURT

REF: (A) 05 PARAMARIBO 198 (B) 05 PARAMARIBO 068

1. (U) Summary. On 23 December a judge in the Netherlands
sentenced Bidjay Parmessar to ten years in prison for drug
trafficking, money laundering and fraud. Parmessar, who is
a Dutch national, is a well-known and influential
businessman in Suriname. He was arrested in March 2005 as
part of 'Operation Ficus,' a joint operation between
Suriname and the Netherlands aimed to tackle drug
trafficking and money laundering occuring between Suriname
and the Netherlands. (See ref A). End Summary.

2. (U) Parmessar was the chief operator and owner of the
Yokohama Trading Company, which Surinamese and Dutch
judicial authorities had long suspected of being a front
for a criminal organization. The Dutch judiciary found
that the head of Yokohama was involved in trafficking large
amounts of cocaine from Suriname to the Netherlands and
other European countries and laundering the proceeds
through his company's many casinos, car dealerships,
foreign exchange offices, and money transfer offices in
both countries. Operation Ficus, begun in 2000, has
devoted millions of Euros to investigating the so-called
Yokohama drugs cartel, culminating in the arrest of the
Yokohoma head last year by French officials in Paris after
he had fled Suriname to avoid arrest in March 2005. He
fled just after his business concerns in Suriname were
raided and associates arrested in a joint Surinamese-Dutch
operation to seize evidence. French authorities
immediately extradited him to the Netherlands. Despite
Parmessar's arrest and conviction, Yokohoma business
entities, such as its car dealerships and casinos, continue
to operate.

3. (U) The presiding judge passed down a ten year sentence,
even though the Dutch Attorney General's office only
requested nine years. His sentence is based on evidence
that he arranged drug transports behind the scenes; the
Court made this ruling despite a lack of physical evidence
of cocaine being trafficked or being in his possession,
according to local press reports. The prosecution also
reportedly provided evidence that Parmessar was laundering
money through his company's money transfer offices in the
Netherlands and Suriname using forged invoices.

4. (U) After the trial Parmessar's lawyer, Inez Weski, said
she thought "the verdict was insane" because there was no
clear-cut evidence against her client. (Note: Weski is also
the lawyer of former military dictator and current
Surinamese politician Desi Bouterse, who has hired her to
overturn his conviction for narcotics trafficking rendered
in the Netherlands in absentia in 1999. End Note.) During
the trial, Weski objected to the methods used by Dutch
authorities during the investigation, such as infiltration
and wiretapping. She also claimed that the Dutch did not
obtain authorization for their investigations in Suriname.
Her objections, however, were overruled by the Dutch Court,
which stated that investigations in Suriname were properly
led by examining judge Albert Ramnewash and the then
Commissioner of the Judicial Police, Chandrikapersad
Santokhi, who is now the Minister of Justice and Police.

5. (U) Operation Fiscus also led to the arrest of
Parmessar's brother, Bisoen Parmessar, in January 2005.
(See ref B). He was arrested in Suriname, but then later
extradited to the Netherlands where he is expected to face
trial early this year on drug trafficking and money
laundering charges.

BARNES