Opinion: Targeting Emsley Tromp

POSTED: 09/30/11 12:23 PM

Helmin Wiels is on the war path and his target is called Emsley Tromp. The Pueblo Soberano leader has filed a complaint against Tromp with the public prosecutor’s office in Willemstad, repeating an allegation about him getting an unsecured loan and about a $400, 000 deposit in the ET Pension Fund.

There is nothing new here, and nothing the prosecutor’s office is not aware of. Wiels is therefore making noise about nothing and at the same time showing a lack of understanding of the way the system works. Wiels does not determine whether Central Bank President Emsley Tromp will be prosecuted. The prosecutor’s office has the monopoly on criminal prosecution and there is not a darn thing Wiels is able to do about that.

Of course, Wiels has already launched an attack on the prosecutor’s office, claiming that its actions are politically biased. It is therefore not difficult to picture his reaction when the hunt for Emsley Tromp does not meet his expectations.

The prosecutor’s office will have to decide whether there is sufficient reason to investigate Tromp’s actions. Then it will have to undertake a fact finding mission to determine whether any crime was committed and if this is so, whether there is sufficient evidence for a court case to result in a conviction.

Looking at the beef Wiels has with the Central Bank President, two questions emerge. The first one is: is there a law that prohibits issuing a loan if there is no collateral? Venture capitalists do this all the time; sometimes they hit gold, and sometimes they lose their investment.

Another question is whether issuing unsecured loans is appropriate. Something legal could be completely inappropriate, right? But what is inappropriate is not necessary unlawful. And if something is not unlawful, the prosecutor’s office simply will not have any possibility to prosecute.

We have a prime example on St. Maarten with the Buncamper-Molanus land scandal. The former minister and her husband acquired the right of long lease on a piece of land on Pond Island in2008. The annual lease fee was around $10,000. Several months after acquiring the long lease contract, the Buncampers sold the economic ownership of the land for a whopping $3 million to a bogus company called Eco-Green N.V/.

That deal was so inappropriate, that it cost Buncamper-Molanus her political career. But was it unlawful? The jury is still out on this issue, mainly because the national detective agency (landsrecherche) has not gotten around to investigating what looks like a case of money laundering. If investigators fail to find proof of money laundering, the Buncampers will not be prosecuted.

The decision about this issue is entirely in the hands of the prosecutor’s office and the attorney general. Politicians have no say in the matter, though they did obviously render their own judgment in December when Buncamper-Molanus stepped down as Public Health minister under enormous pressure from the coalition and from her own Democratic Party.

Helmin Wiels ought to tone down the rhetoric and let justice take its course. He has never shown proof that the prosecutor’s office in Curacao is in any way politically biased. He is just screaming blue murder if things don’t go his way.

We have of course had our share of court cases against high profile citizens like MP Louie Laveist, former Chief Commissioner Derrick Holiday and the late Alfred Marsden. They had a few things in common: in the face of their convictions they claimed their innocence, and hardly anybody stood up for them. This applies of course in a lesser sense to Marsden, who perished in a tragic helicopter accident before the conclusion of his court case. But the one time he did appear in court he too proclaimed that “they” were out to get him.

The Laveist bribery case will come full circle when the Supreme Court rules on his cassation on October 25. In April 2009 Laveist “did a Wiels” when he said in the Eddie Williams radio program For the Record that the prosecutor’s office is tainted and influenced by local politicians.

At his trial in the Court in First Instance, Laveist also made a statement proclaiming his innocence. This is what he told the court: “I know deep down that I am not a criminal. I also know that St. Maarten knows I am not a criminal. Yet an arrest team of seven people came to arrest me, as if I am a serial killer. All my good work is down the drain because somebody thinks that I collect money for work permits. I have never accepted a dime in my life. I am stunned and shocked, and I have no idea why I am here.”

Like most politicians who end up in criminal court, Laveist went into full denial mode. His attack on the prosecutor’s office was designed to give radio listeners the impression that his political opponents were out to get him and that he had done nothing wrong. But Laveist failed to understand, like many of his colleagues on and off island, that there is a big difference between political prosecution and prosecuting a politician. Some things just never change.

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