THE HAGUE–The results of the investigations carried out by the Anti-Corruption Task Force TBO show that the Caribbean part of the Kingdom is exposed to large (international) criminal influences and that the challenges remain great.
Dutch State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops stated this in a letter he sent to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament earlier this week in which he elaborated on the results the TBO has booked since its inception early 2016.
Out of growing concern about the subversive crime issue, especially in St. Maarten, and based on a motion of Members of the Second Chamber Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) and André Bosman of the liberal democratic VVD party, the Dutch government made 22 million euros available for the TBO’s start-up period.
With these funds, capacity was added to the Kingdom Detective Cooperation Team RST, the Prosecutor’s Offices and the Court of Justice, creating the operational cooperation known as the TBO. The investigations are carried out under the autonomous authority of the Dutch Caribbean countries and that of the Attorneys-General.
The TBO has booked results since its inception, results that confirm the necessity of this approach and the suspicions of links between the upper- and underworlds, stated Knops. “Investigations started into politically exposed persons and the large profits that were illegally secured.”
In the investigations thus far, there are suspicions of criminal involvement of politicians, civil servants, important government-owned companies, organisations in the (semi-) collective sector and private enterprises. It concerns, among other things, corruption, tax fraud, money-laundering, forgery, swindling or embezzlement.
The investigations generally have a heavy financial-economic component and a trans-border character. “This makes cooperation between the countries of the Kingdom imperative. Subversive crime connections have been established between the islands and between the Dutch Caribbean and the Netherlands,” stated Knops.
According to Knops, a large part of the investigations started is either ongoing or in court. These investigations generally take a longer time. The approach to subversive crime is also aimed at increasing the awareness of the community and making society less vulnerable to corruption.
The idea is that awareness among the population is created where people do not tolerate this form of crime. “The first signs of community awareness are visible. People are increasingly standing up to corruption and, because of this, the willingness to work with police is increasing.”
In his letter, Knops named a number of investigations in St. Maarten and Curaçao. He mentioned the harbour large-scale fraud case, the investigations into several members of the St. Maarten Parliament for fraud and corruption, the real estate, corruption and fraud investigation at the Bureau Telecommunications and Post (BTP) and the smuggling of drugs by a department head at the airport.
Referring to the case of casino owner Francesco Corallo, Knops stated: “Noteworthy is the investigation that resulted from a request for assistance by Italian authorities. This led to the arrest of a person in St. Maarten. This person was extradited to the Italian authorities and, at the request of Italian authorities, goods were seized with an estimated value of US $90 million. The legal procedure is ongoing in Italy.”
The results of the investigations show that the Dutch Caribbean is prone to large, international criminal influences, he noted. “These criminal influences undermine the governmental and economic systems. In the Netherlands too we continuously see the necessity to tackle subversive crime. Crime doesn’t respect borders and forms a threat to the entire Kingdom.”
A lot has been achieved in a relatively short time, but it remains important to keep fighting this type of crime, stated Knops. “Close cooperation within the Kingdom, with respect for each other’s responsibility, is a crucial condition.”
From 2018 onwards, the Dutch government has made available 12 million euros on a yearly basis for the TBO. This amounts to a total investment of 70 million euros in the period 2016-2021. During the handling of the draft 2020 Kingdom Relations budget, Member of Parliament (MP) Bosman asked whether the successful TBO project would be continued after 2021.
MP Van Raak said it was important to continue the TBO after 2021. “We have to invest in freeing the islands of the colonialism of the mafia. That investigation needs to continue,” he said, announcing that he and Bosman were considering filing a motion in this regard in the second term of the budget handling today, Thursday.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/91622-tbo-probes-show-islands-exposure-to-major-crime