BREAKING NEWS: Dump under scrutiny from Prosecutor’s Office

PHILIPSBURG – The disastrous situation at the landfill and the persistent fires that have put many citizens on edge has drawn the attention of the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

“We are looking at the situation at the dump,” public prosecutor Jeroen Steenbrink said on Tuesday. However, a decision about a possible course of action has not been taken yet.

One of the options the prosecutor’s office has at its disposal is to conduct a civil inquiry into the management of the dump. Steenbrink said that it is too early to confirm that this is what his office will do.

The prosecutor’s office used the instrument of the civil inquiry for the first time in July 2015 when it started an investigation at the harbor group of companies.

The decision to do this was, according to a press release from the prosecutor’s office, based on the integrity reports from PricewaterhouseCoopers (Integrity Inquiry into the functioning of the government of Sint Maarten) the Bob Wit-report (Doing the right things right), and on “signals from the community.”

A civil inquiry is not a criminal investigation, the prosecutor’s office emphasized back in 2015. The inquiry focused on corporate governance, whereby investigators asked questions about abiding by the law, the articles of incorporation and transparency. Among the specific issues that came to the prosecutor’s office’s attention was the construction of the $45 million causeway across the Simpson Bay Lagoon.

The harbor failed to provide researchers of PriceWaterhouseCoopers with procurement policies and procedures and its report therefore did not include an analysis of the way the harbor companies procure goods and services. The report concluded that the harbor “appears to be non-transparent with its business activities and financial results.”

In September 2017, three days before Hurricane Irma hit the island, the prosecutor’s office filed a request with the Common Court of Justice for another civil inquiry at the harbor, as a follow-up to the inquiry of 2015.

The request was based on “persistent signals about mismanagement within the company.” The prosecutor’s office said that there are questions about the tendering of projects, internal control on expenditures and loans the harbor has contracted.

By then the Emerald-investigation was already underway. Port director Mark Mingo was arrested at the airport in June 2017 as a suspect. Checkmate director O’Neal Arrindell is also a suspect in this case. A pro forma hearing for both defendants, originally scheduled to take place on Tuesday, has been postponed until June 11.

Other suspects in the Emerald investigation, among them parliamentarian Chanel Brownbill, have already been taken to court and convicted on charges of tax fraud.

Source: StMaartenNews