PHILIPSBURG–After “eight years of criminal prosecution and being accused of a plethora of far-reaching, negative, criminal acts,” Claudius and Maria Buncamper, who were acquitted by the Court of Appeals of seven of the eight charges brought against them, on Monday were only found responsible for the improper filing of tax-return forms. They are presently evaluating the verdict (see related story) and considering whether or not to file cassation with the High Court in The Hague against the one count for which they have been sentenced.
The Buncampers were accused of acts such as forming part of a criminal organisation, money laundering, and multiple counts of fraud and fencing. “The Court of Appeals unequivocally acquitted the Buncampers of all these charges,” their defence team said in a statement to the media.
“The reversal from a conditional jail sentence to a penalty with community service is by itself a clear indication of the appreciation by the Court of Appeals of the severity and culpability in this specific case. The verdict shows that the Buncampers were perfectly in their right to transfer the economical ownership of the long-lease right to a company, in this case Eco Green.
“The Buncampers were perfectly in their right to assign their claim for unpaid lease before the incorporation of Eco Green NV, to this company. As such, this debt could have been vested in this company, upon its incorporation. Whether or not a so-called ‘strawman’s construction’ was utilised, is, as the Court of Appeals also specifically said during the hearing, completely irrelevant in the underlying case. One and other boils down to the fact that if the Buncampers wanted, they could have put someone else to front for them; this is namely by itself not an illegal act.
“The Buncampers at no point in time forged any agreement and they certainly did not forge any notarial deed. The Buncampers at no point in time were part of any criminal organisation. The Buncampers did not launder any money, nor were they ever in possession of monies derived from a crime; and they were entitled to sell the right of long lease. As such, the Buncampers are grateful to the Court of Appeals for their decision-making,” their lawyer Jairo Bloem stated.
“The verdict shows that after eight years of being accosted, or better said, vilified, specifically by one media outlet, and after eight years and dozens of articles on illegal sale of economical rights, forgery, strawmen construction and more of that factually fully unsubstantiated and judicial nonsense, everyone can establish that the only thing that the Court of Appeals is reproaching the Buncampers for is not properly filling out a profit tax report. Specifically, and simply for wrongfully considering an equity payment as a deductible company cost,” he said.
According to the defence, the Court’s considerations about the involvement and specific knowledge of the Buncampers on the litigious profit-tax filings is largely based on the statement of one tax expert.
“It appears that the Court of Appeals, however, regretfully did not consider the extensive e-mail correspondence between Mrs. Maria Buncamper and this tax expert. This might be because, in the words of the Court of Appeals itself, the entire file of Maria Buncamper was lost by the Court Administration. The question if the Buncampers should, within reason, ultimately also be held responsible, therefore, is – regardless of the verdict of the Court of Appeals – a matter of interpretation/appreciation. Cassation is, as stated, being considered.”
According to Bloem, the criminal prosecution against Buncamper was commenced without a phone call or any notification of objection by the Tax Inspectorate on the presented deductibles
and without the so-called coercion script (“dwangschrift”) or additional tax assessment from the Inspectorate of Taxes and without any investigation into the financial statements of Eco Green or of Buncamper for that matter, “courtesies that are extended to 99 per cent of all citizens.
The Inspectorate of Taxes is, however, not to blame, according to the Buncampers. “The simple fact of the matter is that the Public Prosecutor’s Office, faced with the court-imposed deadline to either put up by indicting Buncamper or shut up, fabricated – with the help of one media outlet, or one specific media reporter – the charges that the Court of Appeals now rejected,” their lawyer said.
“The Buncampers understand that after years of almost systematic negative publicity against them, many in our society might not fully understand/care or value that the bottom line in this entire matter is that the simple practical solution of having the Tax Inspectorate discuss the correctness of applying certain cost deductibles in profit tax filings would logically not be as sensational and detrimental to the Buncampers as the ridiculous accusation levied against them, obviously for ulterior motives.
“These accusations incorrectly sustain the negative portrayal of corruption by political and governmental persons on St. Maarten. Accusations that are used to deploy much-needed funds to witch hunt and sustaining the apparatus and lifestyle of a small group within our society. Funds that could have been actually put to use for the best interests of St. Maarten.”
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/81683-buncampers-considering-cassation-at-high-court