Decision Buncamper-Molanus investigation is still pending

POSTED: 09/6/11 2:13 PM

Prosecutor’s Office awaits investigative capacity

GREAT BAY, St. Maarten / By Hilbert Haar – The landsrecherche is currently occupied with investigations into the embezzlement at the Tourist Bureau and the circumstances surrounding the March 19-escape from the Pointe Blanche prison by the recently recaptured Omar Nelson, aka Chucky. This does not mean that the Public Prosecutor’s office has forgotten the Maria Buncamper-Molanus-case, Chief Prosecutor Mr. Hans Mos told this newspaper yesterday.
“We must have the capacity for it,” Mos said. “But we do intend to look into this case. We will have to decide whether the fact we have found so far justify a criminal investigation.”
The prosecutor’s office will also have to consult with attorney general Dick Piar about the decision to prosecute. Fears that prosecution won’t be possible because of the time that has elapsed since the Today newspaper broke the story in December are unwarranted, Mos said.
The Supreme Court has defined the reasonable term within which a suspect ought to be prosecuted as 24 months. But this period only starts once the Public Prosecutor has undertaken an action like a house search or an interrogation that creates an expectation with a suspect that she or he may become the subject of criminal prosecution.
“We have not undertaken such actions,” Mos said. “But passing the reasonable term does not take away the right to prosecute someone, though it could have consequences for the punishment.”
The Supreme Court wrote in its June 2008 ruling that a first interrogation by the police of a suspect does not qualify as an action that signals the start of the reasonable term. That is different for other actions, like taking a suspect in pre-detention or serving a preliminary summons. In the Buncamper-Molanus case none of these actions have been undertaken.
Buncamper-Molanus was Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor when The Today Newspaper broke the story in December of last year that she had sold the economic ownership of a piece of land on Pond Island for $3 million to Eco-Green N.V., an entity that soon turned out to be a bogus company that had been established three days prior to the 3 million dollar deal.
The Minister signed the documents for this transaction together with her husband Claudius, who is also a potential subject for the criminal investigation. The Buncampers paid an annual lease fee of around $10,000 for the piece of land. The lease was granted by the Executive Council of the Island Territory of St. Maarten on April 1, 2008; Maria Buncamper-Molanus was Commissioner of Economic Affairs in that council at the time. Nine months later, on December 19, the Buncampers sold the economic ownership of the land for $3 million to Eco-Green N.V. That same day, Eco-Green signed a lease agreement with the real user of the land, St. Maarten Building Supplies.

When the story broke, Buncamper-Molanus was Minister of Public health, Social Development and Labor in the first cabinet of country St. Maarten. While more and more details about the deal surfaced and the pressure increased, Buncamper-Molanus finally stepped down on December 23.
In the meantime, opposition leader William Marlin suggested in an interview with The Today Newspaper that the deal smelled of money laundering, adding for good measure that the Director of Eco-Green, 64-year-old Theodore Oniel Walters did not own a wheelbarrow, let alone three million dollar.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office obtained documents relevant to the case and started a fact finding investigation. So far however, the investigative capacity at the landsrecherche has proven to be a stumbling block, and so far no official charges have been brought against the former minister and her husband. That could all change, once the National Detective Agency (landsrecherche) has the investigative capacity at its disposal to take on this case.

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