Maria and Claudius Buncamper (file photo).
THE HAGUE/PHILIPSBURG–Former Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour VSA Maria Buncamper-Molanus and her husband Member of Parliament Claudius Buncamper may be meeting different fates if the High Court in The Hague follows the recommendation of the attorney-general in their so-called cassation cases. The attorney-general confirmed Maria Buncamper’s conviction on Tuesday, but suggested a retrial in her husband’s case.
In the attorney-general’s opinion, the conviction of the former VSA minister for tax evasion can be upheld. This is not the case in her husband’s case, which should be referred to the Joint Court of Justice.
In October 2018, the Court of Appeals sentenced the Buncampers to payment of fines of NAf. 25,000, or 120 days in case of non-compliance. They also had to do 240 hours of community service. The Court of Appeals found the Buncampers guilty of actually having given direction to the intentionally incorrect and incomplete filing of profit tax returns by Eco Green between 2009 and 2011.
The couple founded the “fake” company Eco Green in December 2008. The criminal offences of which both are suspected are related to the lease of a piece of land in St. Maarten by Eco Green to St. Maarten Building Supplies (SBS) and a financial construction they set up together with a notary.
Part of the financial construction was the establishment of Eco Green, of which a front man proposed by the suspects became the owner/director, and a commercial lease agreement, a mortgage deed and a deed of transfer of the beneficial ownership of a right of leasehold.
However, under the terms of the leasehold, the piece of land could not be subleased. The financial construction was set up to obtain income through Eco Green by renting out the property, without the rental income for both suspects – from a fiscal point of view – being regarded as income.
The Joint Court of Justice held both suspects responsible for the factual management of the incorrect and incomplete filing of the profit tax returns by Eco Green. They were acquitted of other criminal offences.
The defendants’ lawyer asked the Supreme Court to quash the convictions. In both cases the lawyer filed complaints about the evidence as presented by the Joint Court.
According to the attorney-general, the complaints as presented in Maria Buncamper’s final appeal were unsuccessful. Therefore, her conviction can be upheld. In connection with the duration of the cassation procedure, which was started on October 26, 2018, the attorney general recommended that the penalty imposed should be reduced.
The case against the husband is different. According to the attorney-general, it cannot be derived from the evidence used by the Court of Appeals that Claudius Buncamper was aware or should have been aware of his wife’s punishable conduct in not filing profit tax returns.
For example, the Court of Appeals has not established that this criminal behaviour was part of the financial construction, or the direct consequence thereof. In addition, it did not become apparent that Buncamper had given any instructions or made suggestions concerning his wife’s prohibited behaviour.
As the administration of Eco Green was only done by his wife, the attorney-general was of the opinion that the Court of Appeals has not sufficiently proven that Buncamper was in charge of the criminal offences committed by Eco Green. Therefore, his case will have to be heard again by the Joint Court, the attorney-general concluded.
The Supreme Court’s rulings in these cases have provisionally been scheduled for March 16, 2021. The attorney-general’s conclusion is an independent advice. The Supreme Court is free to decide whether or not to follow that advice.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/mixed-fortunes-for-buncampers-in-cassation-at-supreme-court