Minister looking at possible impact Port inquiry might have on island | THE DAILY HERALD

PHILIPSBURG–Post-Hurricane Irma, Interim Minister of Tourism Cornelius de Weever and Port of St. Maarten took note of the consequences of the Prosecutor’s request to investigate possible mismanagement within the Harbour Group of Companies. The Joint Court will give its verdict on June 26.

The hearing took place on May 24 and the preliminary investigation spawned several questions about the state of affairs at Port St. Maarten, according to the prosecutor. It was discovered that in the past the government-owned company had three members on the Board of Directors instead of five, which is the legal requirement.

Annual accounts were not approved on time and internal legal guidelines were not complied with. The manner in which projects were put out to tender and the way loans were taken out also raised questions, according to the Prosecutor’s Office.

The separate “Emerald” criminal investigation has led to the suspicion that Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mark Mingo and other suspects had allegedly robbed the harbour of at least US $8 million over a number of years, by signing fraudulent invoices.

Being heard on behalf of Country St. Maarten, De Weever said during the court hearing, “As the Minister of Justice, I do not believe in any interference of investigations.
“As the interim Minister of Tourism I understand that as a shareholder representative, we are directly or indirectly an interested party. Post-Irma, my person as Interim Minister of Tourism, along with the Ministry and the Harbour, have taken keen note of the consequences of the investigation and the impact it could potentially have with our stakeholders.

“We have been trying our best to build the trust and confidence with the cruise industry to ensure that Sint Maarten becomes/remains the number one cruise port on their itineraries. I have taken inventory of the changes that need to be made and have started the process to ensure compliance and further enhance proper governance.”

Port St. Maarten hosted 502,000 cruise passengers from January to May 3, 2018, with 177 cruise calls. Home-porting will resume in December 2018 with 14-16 calls, and 20 per cent of those passengers will stay over three days before or after their cruise.

Source: The Daily Herald