Former minister to court in January: Buncamper-Molanus charged with membership criminal organization

POSTED: 12/2/14 12:59 AM

St. Maarten – Tax fraud, forgery and participation in a criminal organization; these are the charges the Public Prosecutor’s Office has brought against Former Minister of Public Health, Social Affairs and Labor Maria Buncamper-Molanus. She has been summoned to appear in court for a pro forma hearing on Wednesday, January 7 of next year.

The charge for membership of a criminal organization suggests that there are more suspects, but a press release from the prosecutor’s office on Friday did not elaborate on this possibility. The investigation against Buncamper-Molanus is the long-awaited result of a series of publications in Today that started on December 8, 2010.

On that day, this newspaper revealed based on documents it obtained from the public register at the Cadastre Office how the former minister and her husband Claudius sold the economic ownership of a piece of land the couple held in long lease for $3 million to the bogus company Eco Green NV. The annual lease fee for the land on Pond Island was just $10,000.

Under ever increasing political pressure, Buncamper-Molanus stepped down as a minister on December 23, 2010 – after just 75 days in office. “No money has changed hands,” Buncamper-Molanus said during her last appearance in Parliament. The notarial deed of the transaction, drawn up by notary Francis Gijsbertha shows however that Eco Green paid $1.6 million at the signing and that the rest would follow in ninety equal terms of $18,750.

Further investigation by this newspaper showed that the director of Eco Green NV is Oniel Walters, a retired employee of the public works department where Claudius Buncamper is in charge.

Thus the possible other members of the criminal organization to which Maria Buncamper-Molanus belongs according to the prosecution, are notary Gijsbertha, the ex-minister’s husband Claudius and Eco Green’s director Oniel Walters.

After Buncamper-Molanus left office in December 2010, the prosecutor’s office said repeatedly that it intended to investigate possible criminal aspects of the transaction, but for one reason or the other nothing happened for a long time.

All this changed when Buncamper-Molanus decided to take part in the August 29 elections as a member of the United People’s party. In an attempt to get the Eco Green monkey finally of her back, she went to court with a request to put a stop to a possible investigation into the facts that surfaced in 2010. However, the court ruled differently and gave the prosecution until November 6 to complete its investigation.

Somehow this set things in motion, and the prosecutor’s office indeed completed its investigation before the deadline, taking another couple of weeks for a decision about prosecuting the former minister.

At the pro forma hearing on January 7, the defense has the opportunity to ask the court for additional investigation or for the hearing of witnesses. After that, the date for the trial will be set.

Buncamper-Molanus is not the only member of the United People’s party in legal trouble. Silvio Matser will appear in court on Wednesday to defend himself against charges of tax evasion, forgery and failing to declare turnover tax. Matser was the number 23 on the UP-list in the August elections where he won an astonishing 498 votes, pushing him from nowhere to the number three position in the party. There is an investigation underway into election fraud by the Landsrecherche and unconfirmed reports suggest that this probe is focusing on Matser.

In the court case that is on the agenda for Wednesday, Matser is accused of evading taxes and premiums to the tune of $3.2 million. According to the prosecution, Matser failed to declare wage taxes and social premiums for almost five years – from January 1, 2006 until October 9, 2010. He is also charged with forgery and failing to report turnover tax between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2007.

Matser is the owner of construction company Energizer that worked as a sub-contractor on the construction of the Westin Hotel, Porto Cupecoy and the expansion of the harbor. When Matser appeared for the first time in court in December of last year, his attorney Cor Merx pointed out that the main contractors for these projects had obtained an exemption from the turnover tax. “If the main contractor has an exemption, it also applies to all sub-contractors,” he told the court last year.

If Matser were to be sentenced to a prison sentence of at least one year, he would have to give up his seat in Parliament. In that (unlikely) scenario, Maria Buncamper-Molanus would become a Member of Parliament as the number 8 vote getter for the UP. She missed direct election to Parliament by a near-zero margin: she won 202 votes, two more that fellow-UP candidate Johan Leonard. After a recount, Leonard found the two votes he needed to hang on to his seat. The tie-breaker was that Leonard had a higher position on the party’s list of candidates.

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