PHILIPSBURG–United Democrats Member of Parliament (MP) Chanel Brownbill was sentenced Tuesday by the Court of First Instance to eighteen months, fifteen of which were suspended, on three years’ probation, with 240 hours of community service, in the “Emerald” case.
The Court found it proven that Brownbill had failed to declare income and turnover tax for US $1,261,078 in invoices paid by the St. Maarten Harbour Group of Companies to Country Construction company’s bank account. These payments to the company, of which the MP is the sole proprietor, were made between 2009 up to and including 2016.
During the March 29 hearing, the Prosecutor’s Office called for a prison sentence of 18 months and payment of a conditional fine of NAf. 250,000, on two years’ probation. The Court presented its decision in Brownbill’s case, and in the cases of four other owners of one-man construction companies via video-conferencing.
In the Emerald investigation seven proprietors of one-man construction businesses are accused of income and turnover-tax evasion in a corruption ring at the Sint Maarten Port between 2013-2016. In total, the companies deprived country St. Maarten of over NAf. 6 million in tax revenue, according to the tax office.
In contrast with the other suspects in this case, who were sentenced to suspended prison sentences with community service, the Court ruled that Brownbill’s behaviour merited an unconditional prison term.
The Court said it was “incomprehensible and unacceptable” that he had not held himself accountable of tax fraud. “On the one hand, he enjoys a generous income as a Member of Parliament. On the other hand, at the public hearing he refused to explain to the community how he arrived at the considerable tax fraud which has disadvantaged the same community,” the Court stated in the verdict.
Despite promises to be open about the case, the parliamentarian consistently appealed to his right to remain silent. In contradiction with other defendants in this case, he failed to provide inside into his actions, and had failed to show any remorse, the Court said.
According to the Judge, there are also strong indications that he is more to be blamed than the other suspects in this case, as there are indications that he was not only involved in tax fraud, but also in the forgery of false documents, among which were false invoices for labour.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/75771-mp-brownbill-sent-to-prison-for-tax-fraud