Opinion: Public theft

POSTED: 06/24/11 12:47 PM

That not all is well with the Crime Fund of the now defunct Netherland Antilles was already clear for some time. Last month the government accountant bureau Soab in Curacao described the fund-administration as chaotic. Money has disappeared big time from this fund and it is now with some certainty that we can say that most of this money has been deposited in it by St. Maarten.

When investigators arrested two Latvian swindlers in St. Maarten in 2007, they also confiscated millions of dollars. More than $8 million was deposited in the Crime Fund. Until this day, St. Maarten has not seen a penny of that money back, and we all know that the island could do with a little windfall here and there.

Remarkably, the last Justice Minister of the Netherlands Antilles, Magali Jacoba, promised St. Maarten in writing $2 million from the Crime Fund. According to Chief Prosecutor mr. Hans Mos that promise was made way before the transition to country status on October 10. But so far, Mos points out, the island has not received a penny.

What’s more: Curacao apparently helped itself to $2.5 million from the fund to finance projects it should have covered from its regular budget.
While St. Maarten, for once, has been a big financial contributor, Curacao seems to have played the role of the big spender. The investigation into the irregularities is ongoing, but as things go in this world, it seems doubtful that St. Maarten will get its fair share out of this mishap.

Fortunately there is a way to correct this theft of public funds and that is via the settlement fund that is charged with the division of assets and liabilities of the former partners in the Netherlands Antilles.

St.  Maarten ought to put its claim on the Crime Fund dollars high on its list of priorities – as we are sure the government has done. Justice Minister Duncan will welcome the money, as he can use it to upgrade the prison system.

In the Netherlands seized criminal profits and fines disappear in the country’s general budget. That should not happen in St. Maarten. The idea to finance the fight against crime with funds that have been confiscated from criminals is far too attractive.

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