Maria Buncamper-Molanus: “I still ask myself: what have I done w rong?”POSTED: 03/21/16 6:57 PM
St. Maarten News – On the first day of the Eco Green trial the main defendants denied all wrong doing, saying they do not understand why they are being prosecuted. The defendants stand accused of tax fraud and membership of a criminal organization.
In court were former Public health Minister Maria Buncamper-Molanus, her husband Claudius, retired notary Francis Gijsbertha, Eco-Green director Oniel Walters and SBS-director Ivan Havertong.
Judge Peter Lemaire spent the morning going through the numerous facts of the case, where he found in Gijsbertha his most vocal opponent. In an interview with tax inspector Machielsen, Gijsbertha had spoken about a stroman (figurehead)-construction.
“Using a go-between is not illegal,” Gijsbertha said. “There was a ban on letting the land, so we set up a company to transfer the economic ownership.”
It appears now that Eco-Green never paid a penny for the transfer. “Eco Green did not need to have money,” Gijsbertha insisted. “Eco Green was going to find a buyer.”
He said that he had no idea where the money for the down payment ($1.6 million) came from and that Claudius Buncamper holds a bearer share which makes him the legal owner of Eco-Green.
“This is not fraud, it is a legal construction. Why is this illegal here?” Gijsbertha said. “You are trying to stick things to me that are not there. Why would I not be allowed to use that construction?”
The piece of land in question sits across from the Melford Hazel Sports Complex on Soualiga Boulevard and has been in use by the building materials company SBS since 2005. When SBS signed lease agreement with Eco Green, it did not have money to pay all the fees. “First you put something on paper, afterwards you start negotiating about the amounts, that is normal,” Gijsbertha told the court.
The Buncampers hold the land in long lease, but they were not allowed to sublet. “Ivan wanted to rent, not buy,” Buncamper told the court. That’s why the plan came up to put a company in between and transfer the economic ownership. I put my trust in the notary and I do not understand what I did wrong.”
Buncamper suggested that Dutch politicians had a hand in the affair: “This has to do with my wife. The Second Chamber wanted to take her down.” Buncamper explained that his father had been close friends with Oniel Walters and that his father had made him promise to take care of his friend. This is how Walters became Eco-Green’s director, with a monthly salary of $1,500; after ten years he would become the owner of the land, with another fifty years of rent to be collected from SBS ahead of him, according to Buncamper. Walter is currently 69 years of age; he has become blind and is suffering from dementia.
There is also a dispute about a lease agreement between Eco Green and SBs going back to 2005, while Eco-Green was only established in 2008. “We did that retroactively,” was Gijsbertha’s explanation.
Buncamper emphasized that “there was no intention to forge anything or to do something that is not allowed.”
Asked how she had experienced the whole affair from the moment it became public in December 2010 and subsequently led to her fall as the first minister of Public Health of Country St. Maarten, Maria Buncamper-Molanus told the court: “Unbelievable. I was appalled at what I read in the newspaper. I have a reputation of being very straight. I make no promises that I cannot keep. I still ask myself: what have I done wrong?”
“I was asked to resign and things did not look very good, three months into being a new country. I resigned, against my will.”
Buncamper-Molanus said that she had sought legal advice from two sources who both opined that she had done nothing wrong.
In 2012, she wrote a letter to Attorney-General Dick Piar about the looming prosecution, only to hear that the Public Prosecutor’s Office was understaffed and that they did not have the resources to deal with it. There was however an investigation underway into the facts of the matter.
Buncamper-Molanus applies twice to the post of director of social insurance agency SZV. The first time the whole procedure fizzled, but the second time she came out as the best candidate for the job,
“Then I took advice from my lawyer and went to court with the request to prosecute or the end it all. And here we are, but all this is a matter of interpretation. One could say: the Buncampers are pretty good people, they did something completely selfless.”
Gijsbertha seconded Buncamper-Molanus with this statement: “It is a good question. What did she do wrong? Maybe she should not have become a politician or she should not have had a piece of long lease land put in her name. But it is not necessary to prosecute for something if it is morally not right.”
Claudius Buncamper bemoaned the impact of the case on his integrity. “If your integrity becomes an issue, behind every signature I put in my work comes a question mark.”
He accused the prosecutor’s office of tunnel vision: “The prosecutor’s office is not blind, but it goes intentionally after people and makes up stories. If I am convicted I will lose my job.”
Gijsbertha added that it is “completely unacceptable that I am confronted with such an accusation in this stage of my life. I have never done anything wrong.”