Opinion: Corporate Innovations

POSTED: 01/27/11 2:38 PM

St. Maarten’s Justice Minister Roland Duncan just about has had it with references this newspaper has made to the fact that he once was listed as the managing director of Corporate Innovations, a company that is after a telecom license in St. Maarten. Yesterday the Minister reacted to these references for the first time during the weekly press briefing of the Council of Ministers.
We have taken good note of the fact that Duncan, who practiced as an attorney in 2000 stated that he incorporated Corporate Innovations for one of his client, acted as its first director and turned over the company to its owners later on.
Still, this aspiring telecom provider has a tantalizing list of characters. We pointed out last Monday that Duncan’s listing as its first director is intriguing and even though the Minister took this as some sort of accusation, we meant nothing more than that, if only because there is no indication whatsoever that corporate innovations has ever done anything that could be labeled as suspicious or worse.
That we published details about corporate innovations has more to do with our local telecom market and with the players that are involved in it. If Minister Duncan took offense, we apologize for that, but again, the reference has always been factual and certainly never malicious.
So what is it with Corporate Innovations? This is what we wrote in November: “The company was established on February 1, 2000, by Roland Duncan, Records from the Chamber of Commerce show that Duncan was a director/shareholder of the company from February 25, 2000 until January 25, 2002.
The second director listed at the Chamber of Commerce was Minister Meyers’ brother Etienne. He succeeded Duncan as director/shareholder in 2002, and kept that position until June 19, 2006. On June 27 the end of his tenure was registered at the Chamber of Commerce.
Since then, Amibel Maduro, the director of a Curacao-based trust company is listed as Corporate Innovations’ director.”
In the same article we also showed a copy of a document that established that Brenda Wathey, the partner of Telecom Minister Franklin Meyers as the managing director of the company in 2003.
This brief history of Corporate Innovations shows which players were involved at a certain moment in time.
We have to be honest here and admit that we simply do not know who controls the company at the moment. All we know is that Maduro acts as its managing director, but because Maduro runs a trust company (nothing wrong with that) we also know that the real owners are other parties.
We also wrote in November that registrations at the Chamber of Commerce do not necessarily reflect the true ownership of a company. “It is not unusual for makers and shakers to use a front man. During an internal shareholder meeting this front man turns over the shares of the company to the beneficial owners. The minutes of such shareholder meetings are not part of public records.”
Knowing all this, it is good to hear from Minister Duncan that his involvement with Corporate Innovations was that of a caretaker for a period of two years for the later owners. At one time that was Etienne Meyers, and at one time Brenda Wathey was its managing director.
Why is this information that belongs in the public domain? Because people have a right to know who they are dealing with when it comes to dishing out licenses.
Unfortunately there are plenty of perfectly legal options to hide the ownership of a company. That begs the question whether our decision makers want it that way, or if there is a special benefit for the Friendly Country to be had from such a set up.
These legal options certainly do not contribute to transparency. Minister Duncan has made his contribution in this respect by explaining how his name happened to show up as that of Corporate Innovations’ managing director. That is a clear statement and we are happy to take it at face value.
Now we are waiting for a political initiative to create more transparency in the business community, for instance by making the beneficial ownership of local companies truly transparent. Otherwise people just keep thinking that these businesses have something to hide.

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