No control on right of long lease by Council of MinistersPOSTED: 07/10/15 8:16 PM
Former Minister Lake: “I am not aware of this”
St. Maarten – There is no control over the rules that apply to buying and selling rights of long lease by the Council of Ministers. This appears from a reaction by UP-MP Maurice Lake to questions from this newspaper about the long lease rights former Minister Maria Buncamper-Molanus and her husband Claudius sold on December 10, 2013 to Sint Maarten Building Supplies (SBS).
Yesterday this newspaper revealed how the Buncampers sold the right of long lease to a piece of land on Pond Island opposite the Melford Hazel Sports Complex for $345,000 to Sint Maarten Building Supplies. The Buncampers obtained the right of long lease to this parcel of land on April 1, 2008 from the Executive Council of the island territory (while Maria Buncamper-Molanus was the Commissioner of Public Health on this council). In December of that year, they sold the economic ownership of the land to the bogus company Eco Green. Exactly five years later, on December 19, 2013, they sold the right of long lease to SBS.
Article 2.e of the deed that regulates the right of long lease states, “without prior permission of the Executive Council the leaseholder is not allowed to transfer the right of long lease to someone else or to sub-lease or sub-let it.”
MP Lake told this newspaper yesterday that transactions with leased land “never reach the Council of Ministers.”
“I am not aware of this,” he said, asked whether the Council of Ministers had given the Buncampers permission to sell the long lease rights to SBS, or that they had even asked for such permission. “Look at all the land that is being sold,” Lake said. “Nothing of that comes to the Council of Ministers, so I am not aware of this.”
Already in 2010, when this newspaper published for the first time about the deal between the Buncampers and Eco Green, it was clear that something was amiss. The transaction with SBS in 2013 shows that the Executive Council, nor the Council of Ministers that took office on 10-10-10 bothered to take away the right of long lease from the Buncampers for violating the rules.
Then there is the matter of the price SBS paid according to the document this newspaper obtained from the public register of the Cadastre: $345,000. The 2008 long lease deed sets the value of the land (for calculating the transfer tax) at 231,500 guilders, approximately $128,500. The difference with the price SBS paid is around $216,500 – and the question is now whether this is a speculative or a justified profit for the Buncampers. That is to say, if they sold the rights at all, because the prosecutor’s office has charged that the purchase contract is a forgery and that parties have been involved in money laundering.
The long lease deed states under artic le 2.f that leaseholders are not allowed to settle the land-value in a transfer. This means that they are not allowed to make a profit on it. The rule is supposed to prevent land-speculation. “In case of violation the Executive Council reserves the right to claim the amount from the leaseholder who transfers the rights.”
However, leaseholders have the green light for making a profit on buildings erected on the property. The deed for the right of long lease the Buncampers hold allows for the construction of a main building. The question is whether the structures on the land – a fence, a few containers, hard surface, a weighbridge and a small structure represent that value of $216,500. If that is not the case, the deal amounts to land-speculation.
Remarkably, the Buncampers made a deal with the same piece of land twice. This indicates that the deed that transferred the economic ownership to Eco Green in 2008 is a forgery. If this deed had been genuine, the Buncampers would have had no more say over the land. This could only be different, if Eco Green director Oniel Walters somehow transferred his authority over the property back to the Buncampers. Whether this is so, we do not know at this moment.