Minister of Finance sold out the country to become Minister –says MP Meyers.
PHILIPSBURG:— Members of Parliament came together as they all posed severe questions on the establishing of the Assets Recovery Team. Member of Parliament Franklin Meyers made it clear on the floor of Parliament that he knows exactly who signed to establish the team, he said it was Minister of Finance Richard Gibson Sr and former Minister of Justice Edison Kirindongo.
Meyers said that Minister Gibson sold the country out to the Dutch because the first time around he could not pass the screening process but as soon as he agreed with the Dutch to sign off on the establishment of the AfPak team he passed the screening process. Meyers said it’s the prosecutor’s office decides who they want in government. He went on to explain to Parliament that he has a living experience with the Prosecutor’s Office, he said when his brother was arrested and his assets were seized such as his dump truck the prosecutor proceeded and sell his brother dump truck within two weeks long before his brother was released or his case tried in court. He said his brother Etienne Meyers was arrested for Meyers human trafficking yet those that arrested him asked him where he gained all his land. MP Meyers further stated that his other brother also arrested based on assumptions, and he personally was profiled in 1995 by a Marechausee when he was seen driving his brand new BMW.
Meyers said that the locals build their homes through jollification and even by stealing sand from the beaches. He said nowhere in the policy states that these people will not be targeted. He called on the Minister to explain parliament what type of repercussion for those that go after people on a witch hunt. Meyers said he knew someone who lived in a very nice home but that person 20 years to build this home, thus he wants to know what guarantee there is that such a person will not be targeted. He described the situation as a scary thing as people from Curacao has been sending them photos of all that were seized by the AfPak team there.
Meyers said that there are criminals with a badge and criminals without a badge, he based that claim by saying that while a number of vehicles were seized by the prosecutor’s office, those vehicles were not sold but was shipped to the Netherlands. He said drugs are being destroyed, homes and boats and other properties are being sold under value, but certain types of vehicles are kept for the prosecutors and they ship them back to the Netherlands. He said when anyone speaks out against the injustice they immediately become a target. He mentioned a situation where law enforcement from seized a boat that values $1M but yet the prosecution sold it for $200.000.00. He asked why sudden interest is placed on St. Maarten.
He called on the Minister of Justice to take a peek inside the Pointe Blanche prison and he is sure that he will not find any Dutch person there even though there are 200 prisoners incarcerated there.
Meyers said that the people of St. Maarten have grave concerns about the Afpak team. Meyers said that in 60’s and 70’s St. Maarten had no money but these people worked hard at Mullet Bay and most of them build their home through tips they earned, he said those same Mullet Bay workers also built apartments in order to gain extra monies. He asked the Minister to provide parliament that those persons will not be targeted. Leader of UPP Theodore Heyliger also posed several questions to the Minister which he also said he will send in by writing and wants his answers in writing. MP Heyliger focused on the legality of the AfPak team, one is how it was established, was it by an MB or LB. Heyliger wants to know what the exact task of the team is and who will oversee this team. What disciplinary actions will be taken against the team or prosecutor office if they overreach or target people. Who will be held liable if the team is held liable and if so will it be government and if so which budget post will be used to compensate people? He said based on the statements made when the team was launched, it stated this team will work outside of the penal code, therefore, he wants to know how persons whose assets have been seized could defend themselves. Heyliger also wants to know the timeframe from the time assets were seized to the sale of said items and if persons that have become victims could properly defend themselves and assets. MP Heyliger went on to ask about the Crime Fund and how it is being used, and who will decide on the allocation of the funds that is derived from seized assets. He also wants to know if the team is of a higher ranking order and if they will engage in malicious targeting through vengeance, and if it is independent then the Minister should give parliament a full description on their independence.
MP Claret Conner also posed some severe questions on the team and asked how people can defend themselves properly if they are not able to show how they accumulate their savings. He said the people of St. Maarten are known for partaking in partner hand in order to save their monies but in that case, no one can have a receipt. MP Connor also gave parliament an insight on his own experience when he was labeled an embezzler and he managed to go to court and clear his name, he said if he did not do that he would not have been able to serve his country.
MP Hyacinth Richardson also spoke from experience, he said his home was built his brothers besides that he went on to explain parliament what he personally went through when his home and car was searched when someone filed a complaint with the police stating he had a gun.
MP Rodolphe Samuel went more into the documents that were given to them on Monday. Samuel said that the documents are confusing, to say the least, he said in one part of the document it states that the monies derived from this team will go towards paying the salaries of the team and another overhead cost, yet the team consists of people from the Coast Guards, KPSM, Tax Department and Customs. All of whom are already employed by government and has a salary, he asked if this team will now get a second salary that will take them to scale 12. He said that government did not approve a budget for this team and based on the documents provided the team started to work since September 2016 and after a three month period they were supposed to be evaluated. He asked what happened since then. Samuel said according to the documentation the experience the team gain through working they will adjust he asked for that to be explained. He called on the Minister of Justice to shed light even though he knows that the Minister finds himself in a peculiar situation since he did not sign off on the establishment of this team, he told the Minister that there are too many things that are unclear and it must be clarified.
MP George Pantophlet said he does not want anyone to think that they do not want to have checks and balances and what people must remove is that perception. Pantophlet said when he googled AfPak team he saw another world because there is where he saw a number of assets that were confiscated in Curacao and they also mentioned that a lot of monies were confiscated but the amount was not disclosed.
Pantophlet said Aruba AfPak team got a financial injection from the Netherlands and wondered why that was not possible for St. Maarten, and that the monies derived went back into society through the crime funds. He also made clear that more clarity is needed and a clear policy needs to be in place.
MP Frans Richardson wants to ask the Minister of Justice to parliament with more information since the documents Parliament were given are not clear. MP Richardson said the information broke it created a shock on the island. He said that while the Minister of Justice has to face parliament and take the heat he believes that the Prosecutor Office should appear in Parliament to provide the clarity needed. MP Richardson said that even members of Government were taken aback when they read about the team and how they will operate. Richardson said that St. Maarten has a culture where people built their
MP Frans Richardson wants the board of the lawyers to be invited to parliament because he believes that the parliament of St. Maarten has to know how this would affect lawyers in executing their duties. He shared the same sentiments as his other colleagues on how the people of St. Maarten built their homes and even churches he said were built the same way, which is through jollification.
MP Richardson also wants to know if St. Maarten has become a police state and it is important for parliament and the people to get a clear understanding on the AfPak team.
MP Geerlings said he does agree with the slogan that crime does not pay, but government does have a right to know what is taking place in the country and to also ensure that the people are properly informed. He said he also do believe that illegally gained assets must be seized, however, based on the documents provided to parliament is more a copy and paste of the AfPak team of the Netherlands while the dynamics on St. Maarten is totally different. The culture he said is different and the size of the island is much smaller. He called on the executive branch of government to ensure that this team goes to work with a clear framework and policy. He wants parliament to be provided with the “nitty-gritty” on how the team will function.
In 2011 in the Netherlands various ministers initiated a fact-finding to see if this team is working the way it had intended. He asked who will be targeted on St. Maarten and why because in the Netherlands only the drug lords were targeted. Geerlings said the information they got thus far is very conflicting, the Minister is saying that the team will consist of persons from the justice chain and tax department yet in the documents it states that outside expertise will be needed, he called on the Minister to give more clarity on that outside expertise and what they will be needed Geerlings went on to ask about the storage of the data collected because six months ago the sum of Naf 288,500.00 was budgeted for the team but nothing was budgeted for ICT, the most important facet that will be needed since the members of the team comes from different departments. He reminded the Minister that the AfPak team was embedded in the penal code of the Netherlands and wants to know if the same will happen on St. Maarten.
The chairlady of Parliament Sarah Wescot Williams in her closing statements after the first round indicated that she will consider having the prosecutor’s office be invited to parliament, and the board of the lawyers association. Wescot Williams did not set a date for the continuation of the meeting but assured parliament that it will be soon as she would coordinate with the Minister of Justice to schedule the continuation.
Source: St. Martin News Network
Guidelines on Afpak (Asset Recovery Team) not clear — Parliament needs more information.