Structural corruption-remarks AG Guus Schram under firePOSTED: 09/18/15 12:54 PM
St. Maarten – Justice Minister Dennis Richardson’s angry retort to statements by Attorney-General Guus Schram about the connection between the underworld and the legitimate society of St. Maarten finds some justification in the integrity report of the Wit Committee and the integrity assessment of Transparency International.
Schram said on Friday that there are “numerous indications showing that the underworld and legitimate society in Sint Maarten are structurally intertwined.”
Minister Richardson had a powerful reply on Monday: “Justify your claims or shut the hell up.”
The office of the attorney-general did not want to react to Richardson’s remark as we reported yesterday. Instead, spokesman Norman Serphos noted that Schram had referred to three integrity reports and to several concrete criminal investigations.
The integrity-report of the Wit committee (Doing the Right Things Right) takes the air out of Schram’s observation. On page 70, in the report’s conclusions, is the following remark: “Due to a serious lack of hard data it is difficult to separate facts and fiction without expensive and lengthy criminal investigations. There are no concrete indications that make it even plausible that the under- and upperworld are inextricably intertwined across the board, as some individuals on this or the other side of the ocean occasionally claims.”
The global anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI) comes more or less to the same conclusion, albeit with different words. On page 24 of its 2015 National Integrity System Assessment about St. Maarten, TI describes the country’s corruption profile.
Referring to a crime profile report the police force launched in 2011, TI quotes: “although the report covers various aspects of criminal activities, no evidence-based statistics could be found because due to a lack of resources in supervisory bodies and inspection services, limited information is available. With regard to fraud and other breaches of integrity, the report concludes that several instances in corruption by public officials and suspicions of abuse of power for personal gain are suspected, but cannot be substantiated.”
TI concludes: “An overall profile on corruption is not yet available for St. Maarten. There is discussion of corruption in local society, but in the absence of further substantiated data, this will be speculative.”
It is interesting to note that TI bases its conclusions on interviews with, among others. Solicitor-General Taco Stein, Chief Commissioner Peter de Witte, three inspectors from the Law Enforcement Council, the head of the National Detective Agency Ademar Doran and Justice Bob Wit, President of the Constitutional Court and chairman of the committee that wrote the integrity report Doing the Right Things Right.
The office of the attorney-general did not react yesterday to a request for a comment on the findings in the integrity-reports.