By Hilbert Haar PHLIPSBURG – Former Minister Christophe Emmanuel broke plenty of rules when he issued land in long lease to eleven different people, among them the chief of staff of his cabinet, Marisha Richardson. He ignored negative advices from the departments of VROM and New Projects and only motivated his decision in a letter […]
PHLIPSBURG – Former Minister Christophe Emmanuel broke plenty of rules when he issued land in long lease to eleven different people, among them the chief of staff of his cabinet, Marisha Richardson. He ignored negative advices from the departments of VROM and New Projects and only motivated his decision in a letter submitted to DIV – the department that registers letters submitted to the government – on January 18 when the National Alliance-led government was already out of office.
All this appears from a letter Minister of Public Housing, Urban Planning, Environment and Infrastructure (VROMI) Miklos Giterson sent to the Council of Ministers last week Wednesday, February 14. Stmaartennews.com obtained a copy of this letter. The letter draws a shocking picture of the way former Minster Emmanuel went about his business in an attempt to curry favor with his supporters.
Minister Giterson did an in-depth investigation into the issuance of land in long lease on the Pondfill. It concerns an area of 12,000 square meters and its recipients are Pedro Lake, Cristal Legrand (as owner of Mansha Property Management), Melvin Richardson (as owner of Shashayay NV), Jean Mickael Bartlett, Deborah St. Luce, Rolando Gumbs, Curley Boston, Elmer René Willems, Emmanuel Mussen, Sherwin Hodge and Shalanda Lake.
According to Minister Giterson’s letter, Domain Affairs received “numerous instructions” during the first weeks of December to finalize the issuance of the long lease contracts; some applicants were added, while others were removed from the previous advice.
Marisha Richardson’s name was one of the original applicants, but her name was later taken off the application after “it was communicated to the minister that his own chief of staff cannot receive a parcel of land to avoid a conflict of interest.” Her name was replaced with that of Mansha Property Management, owned by Cristal Legrand. This company was incorporated at the Chamber of Commerce on November 7 of last year and it did not exist on November 1, when the first long lease applications came in.
The company Shashayay NV is “represented by Melvin Richardson, who is, the minister writes “believed to be a brother of the chief of staff, Marisha Richardson.”
Minister Giterson’s investigation brought more anomalies to light. Shalanda Lake, who became a recipient after the initial advice is linked to Versatile Consulting and Management, one of the two companies that won the tender for the roof repair program.
And then there is the Soualiga Infrastructure Company, owned by Jeffrey Bremer. “This is believed to be the spouse/partner of the chief of staff, Marisha Richardson,” Minister Giterson reported to the Council of Ministers.
Soualiga Infrastructure won the basketball court project in Great Bay. According to research by stmaartennews.com, Soualiga Infrastructure also won a ‘bid’ to repair the Prince Bernhard Bridge. The amount offered for this tender is remarkable: 149,768.25 guilders with a 50 percent down payment before the beginning of the work.
The proposal came in on October 5, was granted to the company in a letter dated on October 11 and finally approved on November 27 of last year. Minister of Finance Richard Gibson Sr. signed off on the project on November 30.
Based on our information, the Soualiga Infrastructure Company was not registered at the Chamber of Commerce at the time the project was granted.
According to the article 47, paragraph 3 of the Accountancy Ordinance public tenders are not required for work that does not exceed a value of 150,000 guilders. For buying goods and services that limit is 50,000 guilders.
The Soualiga Infrastructure Company has now been granted 149,768.25 guilders to repair the pedestrian walkway of the Prince Bernhard Bridge – a price just below the limit above which a public tender is required.
Minster Giterson discovered other peculiarities linked to this company. “Only one other company gave a quote every time that justified the choice for the Soualiga Infrastructure Company.”
That ‘competing’ company is mentioned as Earth Movers Contractor. According the minister’s letter the man behind this company is Jean Mickael Bartlett – indeed, one of the recipients of a piece of land in long lease.
The department of new projects advised against issuing the land in long lease for several reasons. First, because the existing ring road drainage channels would have to make way for the new development. To remedy the ensuing drainage problem would cost approximately 2 million guilders. Furthermore, the alignment of the future ring road would be affected and to repair that problem, another 15,000 square meters of the Great Salt Pond would have to be filled in.
That’s a bad idea: “”The holding capacity of the Great Salt Pond is now at a minimum between 107 and 110 hectare,” Minister Giterson writes. “It is advised not to decrease this to avoid severe flooding in the surrounding areas.
A third issue has to do with parking: Philipsburg needs some 1,200 parking spots to remedy the traffic circulation problem. “Approximately 220 places will become obsolete if land is not reclaimed from the Great Salt Pond,” Minister Giterson points out. That would cost another one million guilders, bringing the total burden to the country to 3 million.
In the face of all these objections, former Minister Emmanuel saw no problem to help the bureaucratic procedures a little bit. According to Minister Giterson, Emmanuel gave Domain Affairs the instruction to issue around 10,000 square meters in long lease in the late afternoon of November 1, 2017 – the day when it became clear that a new majority in parliament would table a motion of no confidence against the Marlin-cabinet the next day.
Domain Affairs pointed out to the messenger of this instruction, chief of staff Marisha Richardson, that procedures had not been followed, that issuing a definite decree on the same day was impossible and that certificates of admeasurement had not been made up yet.
After a couple of weeks the department received an instruction from Emmanuel to finalize the issuance of the long leases anyway. While normally Domain Affairs sends an instruction to the Cadastre to make the certificates of admeasurement, in this case former Minister Emmanuel did it personally on November 29, 2017.
When Domain Affairs inquired about this course of events at the Cadastre, the department learned that the minister had paid personally for some of the certificates of admeasurement while it is standard procedure that the applicants for long lease pay these dues.
Top photo caption: Former VROMI-Minister Christophe Emmanuel. Photo Hilbert Haar.
Above photo caption: The Soualiga Infrastructure Company gets almost 150,000 guilders to repair the pedestrian part of the Prince Bernhard bridge with a couple of steel plates. Photo Hilbert Haar.
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Source: StMaartenNews http://stmaartennews.com/government/former-minister-emmanuel-helped-friends-pieces-land/