PHILIPSBURG–The Prosecutor’s Office has requested permission from the Joint Court of Justice for the prosecution of current Member of Parliament (MP) Claudius “Toontje” Buncamper. The request was heard by the court during a closed-door session last week.
Prosecutor’s Office spokesperson Roderick Gouverneur confirmed on Tuesday that the Prosecutor’s Office has filed a request in the Joint Court of Justice for the prosecution of a “political authority” (“politieke gezagsdrager”) in connection with the “Ruby” investigation involving the alleged accepting of bribes.
The Prosecutor’s Office stated in a press release at the time that the Anti-Corruption Task Force TBO had searched a business and various archive storages in St. Maarten on February 18, 2020, under the supervision of the judge of instruction. No arrests were made.
The searches were carried out in relation to an extensive criminal investigation codenamed “Ruby”, which began in July 2018 and concentrates on the phenomenon of – alleged – bid-rigging regarding contracts related to waste processing in St. Maarten.
“Investigation Ruby mainly focuses on the suspicion of administrative corruption, in particular the acceptance of bribes and the misuse of public funds for personal purposes,” the Prosecutor’s Office said nine months ago.
Prior to becoming an MP for United St. Maarten Party (US Party), Buncamper was a top-ranking civil servant of the Ministry of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI as head of Infrastructure Management from September 1996 until February 2020.
It is not yet known when the Joint Court will give its decision on the Prosecutor’s Office’s request.
Buncamper was among several MPs launching pointed criticism at the perceived powers the Prosecutor’s Office would wield under the draft Criminal Procedure Code, which was discussed during last week Wednesday’s meeting of Parliament’s Justice Committee.
“This draft Criminal Procedure Code has been so lopsidedly adjusted to favour the prosecution over the suspect that it cannot be called a law anymore,” he claimed.
He said the code fulfils the Prosecutor’s Office’s agenda, giving it the best tools to boost its conviction rate. He characterised the Prosecutor’s Office as trying to act like a “casino” where the “house always wins.”