SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – Keisha Richards, a former HAVO student of Milton Peters College (MPC) in St. Maarten, is expected to become a new addition to one of the notary offices in St. Maarten.
This after her recent obtaining of her master’s degree in Notary Law at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands.
The young Richards obtained her master’s degree after defending her thesis ‘Limitations of the misuse of the Private Fund Foundation and the Trust’.
With Prof. dr. Frans Sonneveldt of the Law faculty at Leiden University as her mentor, Richards had introduced her thesis by observing that St. Maarten is a paradise for relaxation, foreign investments and trusts.
In 2016, she interned at a Notary office on St. Maarten when she came across an article that referred to a case where a Canadian national had embezzled some 1.2 million dollars from a company called Resort of Worlds. The culprit had transferred his fixed assets into a Private Fund Foundation called “Maple Leaf”.
“By transferring one’s assets to a Private Fund Foundation (PFF) or a Trust, these assets would be beyond the reach of a creditor of the settlor of the PFF or the Trust, in this case the Canadian, who is the settlor of the PFF “Maple Leaf”, says the thesis introduction.
The likelihood of successfully attaching the assets of the settlor of the PFF or Trust via legal recourse by creditors would be very slim in the event of insolvency or bankruptcy of the Canadian, adds the thesis.
While reading the article, Richards questioned if such an act by the Canadian in question would not be best classified as a tortious act, which served as the basis for researching this topic as her Master thesis for the study in Notary law.
In the process of finalizing her master year, she made a comparison between the trust fund and the private fund foundation and which of these two legal vehicles is prone to misuse.
Recognizing that the trust fund has more limitations against misuse through the The Hague trust treaty, she created a similar article to article 15 of the trust treaty. This article limits the misuse of the private fund foundation.
The objective of her thesis, said Richards, was to research the purpose and workings of the PFF and the Trust in the Netherlands and in the Dutch Caribbean countries, particularly Sint Maarten. The main research question was: When Transferring assets by a settlor into a Private Fund Foundation or a Trust, what should the settlor be aware of to avoid committing a tortious act.
Additionally, the thesis provides recommendations to limit misuse of the PFF and Trust.
As a young St. Maarten law student Richards, then age 22, in August of 2013 made a presentation to then St. Maarten’s Minister of Justice, Dennis Richardson.
The former minister had stated that “it is important to support our young people in developing their talents in any way we can”.
The 2013 presentation came in the wake of her working as an intern at the Immigration and Naturalization Department (IND).
The exercise afforded her insight into bottlenecks faced by immigration services and resulted in her writing a 52-page master thesis entitled “Residence permits and principles of good governance at IND in St. Maarten”, intended for internal purposes.
Among conclusions listed in the report submitted by Ms. Richards, at the time, is that the process concerning the entry and residence of foreigners in St. Maarten had improved compared to previous, but that there are still several areas that need improvement. The report suggested that the IND keeps better reckoning with taking the principles of good governance into account in the handling of residence permits, as this was not done on a constant basis.
The findings concluded that IND must ensure that a foreigner be allowed to return to the country of origin in case of violation of the laws of the land. She therefore recommended to draft a law, whereby the foreigner (who is being legally admitted to St. Maarten) upon arrival to St. Maarten, deposits money on a special bank account of the IND. The amount deposited would equal the cost of a return ticket to the country of origin of the foreigner, should the foreigner be deported or expelled from St. Maarten.
Richards moved to the Netherlands over 10 years ago “clueless on what to expect” she says.
One thing she did know is that she was “fond of the law and was interested in the process of the Dutch law”.
Four years later, Richards obtained her bachelors in Groningen at the Hanze Hogeschool, specializing in International Law and Dutch Law.
She says that “at the age of 22, I just wasn’t ready for the working world and decided to further my studies at the Leiden University, specializing in notary law. It took me 4 years to realize that I just loved family law and succession law. So that was the main reason, I decided to pursue another law study”.
She adds that to her surprise, “it was the perfect study for me”.
For the ambitious St. Martiner, “It was a tough transition from HBO to University, but I decided this is what I wanted, so I have to fight for it. Nothing worth having, comes easy I always say. So, despite how hard it was, despite the teachers that told me I’m not smart enough or the Dutch language being a bit difficult grasp, I obtained a second bachelors in Notary Law”, she says.
Richards not only believed in herself but credits much of her achievement to her parents, former lt. governor Franklyn Richards and mother, Angela Richards. “They had faith in me and supported me each step of the way. Without their support and long stressful nights of projects and studying, I truly believe I would not have achieved my goal. But by the grace of God it became my reality”.
After finalizing preparations in The Netherlands, Richards is now determined to Sint Maarten to work at one of the notary offices on St. Maarten “and hope to
contribute to the Sint Maarten community”.
Dr. Teico Sikkema; Keshia Richards LL.M.; Professor Pim Huijgen.