PHILIPSBURG–The Prosecutor’s Office on Wednesday demanded a prison sentence of three years and payment of NAf. 727.145 against former Director of the Security Service of St. Maarten VDSM J.A.J.R. (42) for embezzlement.
The investigations in the so-called “Tarpon case” started in June 2014, following a statement by the Secretary General of the Ministry of General Affairs after an investigation by Government Accountants Bureau St. Maarten SOAB in connection with embezzlement and money laundering by a civil servant committed between January 2011 and mid-2013.
In connection with the investigation, several searches were held, among which at the defendant’s home. The suspect was arrested July 19, 2016, and held in preventive custody for 12 days in connection with the investigation.
Investigations by the National Detective Agency revealed that purchases were made by VDSM’s credit card between 2011 and 2013, and its former Director could not give any plausible explanation.
These payments involved various purchases for private purposes, such as a gold bracelet at a jewellery store in St. Maarten, expensive clothing at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport; several purchases at a department store in the Netherlands; a Blue Ray player; airplane tickets to Miami for two persons; tickets and an overnight stay for two in St. Kitts; purchase of airline tickets for him and his family to Orlando; and overnight stays at a luxury hotel in Miami. All these purchases were made in 2012.
The suspect also made several cash withdrawals to the total amount of NAf. 273,000 in 2012 and 2013.
The Prosecutor did not mince words in this case. “Crime does not pay,” he said. The Judge will give his decision in three weeks’ time, on August 30, at 9:00am.
The National Detective Agency has been busy with the Tarpon investigation since mid-2015. In 2013, Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reported that the VDSM chief went into hiding in Tamarind Hotel for four months in 2012, for fear of an attempt on his life by “murderous drug criminals.”
The suspect had also ordered the construction of a security wall around his house. The cost of the wall’s construction and his hotel expenses were borne by VDSM.
The former VDSM chief was allowed to declare expenses made for his personal security, but the amounts – for example, where hotel cost is concerned – were being contested by SOAB.
These investigations, in which possible financial misappropriation within VDSM was described, were the reasons the VDSM chief was suspended.
He claimed at the time that he spent US $32,000 on the hotel during his hiding period. The hotel bills, which De Telegraaf claimed to have in its possession, only amounted to $14,000.
De Telegraafcontinued to report at the time that “observers” said he had been suspended after he uncovered corruption among government officials with ties to a “notorious Italian businessman.” He allegedly created bad blood after he issued a negative advice concerning the businessman’s appointment to an “important financial institution.”
Former Prime Minister Wescot-Williams stated in July 2013, that SOAB investigations had uncovered irregularities in the VDSM budget and that “considerable expenditures” were not accounted for. According to her, the first signals about possible embezzlement and corruption within VDSM had already surfaced in April of that same year.