GREAT BAY – The Judge of Instruction extended the detention of Port St. Maarten director Mark Mingo on Friday with another eight days. Mingo was arrested on June 7 at the airport as a suspect in the Emerald-investigation that focuses on money laundering, forgery and tax fraud.
The prosecutor’s office did not confirm this weekend reports that it is investigating fifteen construction companies that are, or have been, doing business with the port. The story is that these companies have charged inflated prices for the work they did for the port.
“Emerald is not about an investigation into construction companies,” spokesman Norman Serphos told this newspaper. “It is an investigation into the port companies.”
When PriceWaterhouseCoopers did its integrity investigation in 2014, it also looked at practices at government-owned companies. In the course of this process, the auditors asked for information about procurement. It found that “one government-owned company” had outsourced a $2 million construction contract “to a family member of one of the company’s supervisory board of directors.” This seems to be a reference to the construction of the Walter Plantz Square. The harbor granted this project for $2 million to Windward Roads.
The report furthermore noted that most of the government-owned companies have procurement rules in place “but many of the procedures had broad exceptions and were often not followed as intended.”
The Harbor Group of Companies “did not provide procurement policies and procedures,” the report states. “Therefore, an analysis of the procurement processes at the harbor group of companies was not performed.”
In September 2014 the Harbor Group of Companies announced the establishment of an integrity-board. One of the members of this board was port director Mark Mingo.
In the summer of 2015 the prosecutor’s office announced a civil inquiry against the Harbor Holding Company, emphasizing that this was not a criminal investigation.
However, the prosecutor’s office based its decision to conduct the civil inquiry 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.”
Those signals from the community were most likely the controversy surrounding the contract the port signed with Checkmate Security.
In this context it cannot be a coincidence that Checkmate director O’Neal A. is also a suspect in the Emerald-investigation.
The civil inquiry looked at corporate governance at the port companies. Investigators have asked questions about the articles of incorporation and transparency. Among the specific issues that came to the attention of the prosecutor’s office at the time was the construction of the $45 million Causeway across the Simpson Bay Lagoon.
The results of the civil inquiry have never been made public.
Photo Caption: The Causeway Bridge when it was still under construction. File photo Today / Milton Pieters