Court punishes corrupt civil servant

POSTED: 09/27/12 12:07 PM

St. Maarten – The Court in First Instance sentenced Shirnon August Benvenuto Trinidad to 12 months imprisonment for accepting bribes and committing forgery in his function as inspector for the Ministry of Public Housing, Urban Planning, Environment and Infrastructure (Vromi). Of the sentence, 6 months are suspended; the court imposed 2 years of probation and forbade Trinidad to work as a civil servant for a period of 3 years.

The verdict by Judge Mr. Tamara Tijhuis is close to the demand prosecutor mr. Georges van den Eshof made at the trial on September 5. The only difference is that the judge mitigated the time the 41-year-old defendant is not allowed to work as a civil servant from 5 to 3 years.

Trinidad was not in court to hear the sentence. At the trial, prosecutor Van den Eshof said that the defendant is no longer on the island. He added however that the verdict is valid in the whole Kingdom and that he will make sure it will be executed. “I hear he has a girlfriend in the Netherlands, so maybe he is there. Otherwise I will issue an international order for his arrest,” the prosecutor said.

Trinidad pressured business owners into handing over bribes when he visited their premises for inspections. At least eight business owners, all from the Chinese business community, had encounters with Trinidad. They filed a complaint and in the end the corrupt civil servant was charged with two cases. T. Lee-Mock who operates the Pitusa Hotel on Illidge Road, and J. Liu, who owns the nearby Li Bing supermarket both had similar experiences with the defendant. “I can close your business but if you help me I will help you,” was his standard phrase.

Lee-Mock paid Trinidad in the end 600 guilders, and her niece Liu forked over 100 guilders.

Trinidad confessed to investigators that he had taken money from Lee-Mock and Liu.

Trinidad handed both entrepreneurs a safety warning letter signed by himself and by a colleague. But the colleague denied that he had signed the letters and it became clear that Trinidad had forged the signature. The safety warning letter itself was also a falsification: the department head responsible for inspections, H. Ellis, told investigators that the document Trinidad served his victims is not the same as the warning letters his department issues.

The Trinidad-investigation is the first case that was investigated by St. Maarten’s Landsrecherche (National detective Agency).

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