PHILIPSBURG–Government and the Prosecutor’s Office Asset Recovery Team will now go ahead as planned after talks about the team’s function concluded in Parliament on Wednesday. The team will go after money-launderers and combat illegal activities involving financial gain by these criminals.
The team comprises police, Coast Guard, tax officials, Social Insurances SZV, Customs and Prosecutor’s Office officers. The team’s responsibility is to seize assets such as homes and other buildings, vehicles, boats and anything of value from persons the Prosecutor’s Office deems suspects.
Minister of Justice Rafael Boasman and Chief Prosecutor Ton Maan announced the start of the team in May, but all 15 members of Parliament had an issue with the implementation and wanted clarification from the Justice Minister about the team’s task and function.
The Afpakteam (Asset Recovery Team) will use existing laws to seize goods from those who they deem as suspects. Persons can always contest the seizure in the Court of First Instance. Similar teams have been operating in Curaçao for some time now. St. Maarten’s Council of Ministers approved the project four months ago after it was requested by Minister of Finance Richard Gibson Sr.
Boasman assured Parliament that the team will not cost Government any money. “In fact, money seized will be put in the existing crime fund and used in a responsible manner, such as establishing a much-needed victims’ fund. We usually go after the criminals, but we lack a victims’ fund,” he stated.
Members of Parliament asked several questions pertaining to the team’s function and had concerns about this team randomly seizing properties and goods of hard-working St. Maarten residents, but Boasman again stressed that the team is to go after wrongdoers who use crime for enrichment.
He said,” We all grew up on the notion that you need to work hard and this team will make sure that crime does not pay.”
The Minister of Justice will have political responsibly for the team, but he or she will not be able to interfere in any ongoing “A-team” investigations.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/71673-parliament-concludes-talks-about-asset-recovery-team