PHILIPSBURG–Minister of Tourism Stuart Johnson confirmed on Wednesday that he intends to keep recently-convicted former Tourist Bureau head Regina Labega in his cabinet because of her years of service to St. Maarten’s tourism sector.
Labega has appealed last week’s conviction. She and two others in the case were convicted by the Court of First Instance for embezzlement and forgery committed at the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau (STB), STB’s New York office and East Caribbean Destination (ECD) Management Company.
The Prosecutor’s Office said last Friday that it is considering an appeal in the so-called “Colade” case, because the three suspects in this case were acquitted by the Court of several charges, including money-laundering and membership in a criminal organisation.
The Prosecutor’s Office public relations office maintains that Labega should not be working. The judge also agreed with the Prosecutor’s Office, hence the conviction in which she is banned from working as a civil servant for five years. Once the appeal process kicks in, the conviction is annulled and the case is headed to the Appeals Court.
Johnson said, “Her legal matter is still ongoing and an appeal procedure has been filed. Considering Miss Labega’s many years in the tourism industry and her overall performance within the industry and her knowledge, of course I am happy to continue working along with her as my senior policy advisor.”
The Court found it proven that Labega had committed embezzlement in her capacity as a civil servant at STB and had committed tax crimes. The Court said that Labega, as the factual owner of ECD, had misappropriated funds belonging to STB and had used these to enrich herself. These crimes were committed between March 2009 and February 2013.
Labega was sentenced to 12 months suspended, on three years’ probation, and a NAf. 300,000 fine. She was also banned from being a civil servant for a period of five years.
ECD’s co-directors Erica Fortuno (38) and Fabian Badejo (68) were each sentenced to three-months suspended, on three years’ probation, and a fine of NAf. 50,000. The company was also fined NAf. 50,000.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/83356-johnson-keeps-labega-as-senior-policy-advisor