Former Antillean PM De Jongh-Elhage: “I am shocked” – AIVD spied illegally on Booi and El Hage

POSTED: 11/22/13 4:57 PM

KRALENDIJK – The Dutch intelligence service AIVD spied on politicians in Bonaire between 2005 and 2010, an investigation by NRC Handelsblad revealed yesterday. The targets of this illegal operation that was kept secret from the Antillean cabinet were politicians that negotiated with the Netherlands about Bonaire’s constitutional future in the Kingdom.

The AIVD collected incriminating information on the island through a network of informants. This showed that some politicians were possibly corrupt and also guilty of large-scale abuse of power. One informant, who spoke with NRC Handelsblad, said that the AIVD had plans to install eavesdropping equipment. The Dutch spies were after Ramonsito Booi, leader of the Christian-Democratic UPB and his confidante, Commissioner Burney El Hage.

Booi told Belkis Osepa of Caribisch Netwerk in a brief reaction to the publication: “I will go down in history as the most wanted, investigated and thrashed out politician in the Caribbean if what has come out in NRC is true.”

Booi wondered about the results of all the accusations against him. “What comes up in the trial is about the sale of a piece of land. Well, either I did this very smartly and I do not know how I did that, or there is nothing to be found.”

“Sources around the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom relations confirm that the top of the ministry was aware of the AIVD-information,” NRC-reporter Joep Dohmen wrote yesterday. Dohmen is the author of a book about corruption in the construction sector in the Netherlands and in the former Netherlands Antilles (The Construction Cesspool – De Bouwbeerput).

Dohmen claims in his article that nevertheless the negotiations with Booi and El Hage continued. After the last signatures were placed under the negotiations in 2008, the Public Prosecutor’s Office started in 2009 a criminal investigation against Booi and El Hage. This Monday they are in court to answer to charges about corruption, money laundering, fraud and forgery.

According to NRC Handelsblad, the AIVD was only allowed to deploy intelligence and security operations on Antillean territory with the permission from the Antillean Prime Minister or – on her behalf – from the head of her own intelligence service, the VNA. The operation should have been conducted under the supervision and the responsibility of the VNA.

Emily De Jongh-Elhage, who was the Antillean Prime Minister at the time, told Dohmen: “I did not know anything about this. I am shocked.”

Sources at the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations confided that the position of Burney El Hage played a role in the decision to keep the operation secret. El Hage was a member of the Antillean cabinet from 2006 to 2007 as Minister of Economic Affairs.

Several sources have confirmed the spying-allegations. The AIVD sprang into action after a majority of the Bonairean population voted in a referendum in 2004 for direct ties with the Netherlands.

The situation was “problematic” for the ministry according to Dohmen’s sources. It had to negotiate with Booi and El Hage about the integration with the Netherlands. Their UPB party – Union Patriotiko Boneriano – was already for more than ten years in power on the island and it was also part of the Antillean cabinet. In spite of the “worrisome” reports from the AIVD the negotiations continued, but the intelligence service continued to keep an eye on Booi and El Hage.

In 2008 the State Secretary for Kingdom Relations at the time, Ank Bijleveld-Schouten inked a final agreement about the constitutional future of Bonaire and the other parts of the Netherlands Antilles. The year after, the prosecutor’s office started the investigation against Booi and El Hage. On September 8, 2009, national detectives from the Netherlands conducted house searches at the homes of the two politicians.

Dohmen’s story is remarkable, given the fact that the Foundation for good Governance in Bonaire published a black book about corruption and nepotism on October 24, 2007.

“All claims in this black book can be backed up by documents, notarial deeds, reports, government decisions and reports from judicial authorities,” the authors of the damaging report state. “With amazement we have to establish that the Public Prosecutor’s Office and other judicial organizations like the Detective Collaboration Team RST apparently have a thicker mist before their eyes than Lady Justice herself. As far as we know no action is undertaken to stop corruption in Bonaire. Fraud and corruption in Bonaire are in no way inferior – even better: they are not proportionate to the established and prosecuted cases in St. Maarten and Curacao.”

The black book documents in detail the shenanigans of Ramonsito Booi the capo di tutti capi in Bonaire. To name just one example: Booi established the public limited company Warahama Properties, according to the report “with his life partner as director.” Booi sold the Plantation Warahama on January 13, 2004 to this company for 800,000 guilders. The plantation consisted partly of domain land and partly of privately owned land. On July 29 of the same year Warahama properties sold one parcel of the land back to Booi without demanding a purchase price.

The report is crammed with examples of nepotism, the hiring of friends and family members in government service against outrageous salaries and costly retroactive promotions. The black book gave the Ministry of Home Affairs therefore plenty of information about what was going on in Bonaire.

The Foundation for Good Governance presented its black book to State Secretary Bijleveld in November 2007. Bijleveld sent it to the prosecutor’s office, a step that outraged Booi at the time. He urged Prime Minister De Jongh-Elhage to address the issue with Bijleveld, arguing that the opposition in Bonaire is part of the foundation that published the black book. This way, Booi attempted to discredit the information presented in the 16-page black book.

“Bijleveld should not let herself be used as the messenger girl of the opposition,” Booi fumed at the time according to a report in NRC Handelsblad. Booi feared that the population would see the step to the prosecutor’s office as a motion of no confidence against the UPB and that this would undermine the support for the constitutional reform process.

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Former Antillean PM De Jongh-Elhage: “I am shocked” - AIVD spied illegally on Booi and El Hage by

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