Opinion: CorruptionPOSTED: 09/27/12 12:27 PM
Corruption is one of those nasty crimes that gnaw at the roots of a democracy. In a small community like ours there have always been a lot of rumors about the issue and there always seems to be a peak when elections roll around.
Our National Detective Agency, or Landsrecherche, has just concluded its first successful investigation into corruption by a now former employee of the Ministry of Public Housing, Urban Planning, Environment and Infrastructure.
The employee, Shirnon Trinidad, targeted Chinese entrepreneurs. He approached them as an inspector for his ministry with a fake safety warning letter – a document the ministry does not even use. To impress his victims, he forged the signature of a colleague and placed it next to his own to give his threatening letters more credibility.
I could close your business but if you help me I help you, was Trinidad’s shortcut to a handful of money. We do not know how many people fell for his scheme, but what we do know is that eight business people filed a complaint at the prosecutor’s office and that the prosecutor finally charged Trinidad with two cases.
That led to a conviction. In one case, Trinidad swindled a victim out of 600 guilders, and in the second case he netted a mere 100 guilders. Altogether, 700 guilders, less than $400.
While these numbers look pathetic and make one think that even as an extortionist Trinidad was a miserable failure, they say of course nothing about the stress and discomfort he cause to his victims, not to mention the damage he did to the image of his department and to the trust of Chinese entrepreneurs and the government in general.
Many people consider corruption as a serious crime – and it is. But the penalties the justice system is able to hand down almost look like an invitation to become corrupt. Trinidad received a 12 month prison sentence, of which he will have to serve 6 – if justice ever gets its hands on him. The thing is – our corrupt inspector has fled the island after he was kicked out of his job. He did not attend his trial or the sentence hearing.
Prosecutor Van den Eshof made a tall promise when he said at the trial that the verdict is valid in the whole Kingdom and that he will, if necessary, issue an international arrest warrant to make sure Trinidad serves his sentence.
Well, that time has arrived. The corrupt civil servant has fled the coop and he may be hanging out with a girlfriend in the Netherlands. Maybe he even found a job with some unsuspecting municipality – and that is a job he is not allowed to have because the court banned him from working as a civil servant for a period of 3 years.
Looking at the sentence from that perspective, Trinidad got what was coming to him. The sentence may feel like a slap on the wrist (a mere 6 months in jail) but the ban on working anywhere in the Kingdom in the civil service changes that picture dramatically.
What we see is a civil servant who ruined his own career by squeezing laughable small amounts of money out of his victims. It made us think of a prison guard who appeared in court a couple of years ago for having accepted $50 (fifty dollars) to smuggle a cell phone into Pointe Blanche. We don’t remember the sentence, but we do remember that this man lost his job because of it.
Now we are waiting for a report from the prosecutor’s office that Trinidad has been arrested somewhere in the Kingdom and that he is sweating his six months behind bars.