Published On: Tue, Jun 28th, 2022

Theo Heyliger even deeper involved in Port activities (Part 2)

PHILIPSBURG — The involvement of former minister and former parliamentarian Theo Heyliger in the import of goods at the port goes even deeper than previously described in our article ‘How Heyliger delivered a near monopoly to Tropical Shipping.’

Information made available by a source at the port suggests that, next to Tropical, there are two other companies involved in the stevedoring business: SSS (St. Maarten Stevedoring Services) and SMPS (St. Maarten Port Services. Both companies are owned and/or controlled by Theo Heyliger and/or his family.

The involvement with SSS appears from an email George Pelgrim, Heyliger’s foster father, sent on December 28, 2015, to then Chief Executive Officer Mark Mingo. The mail contained a ‘Notice of Concession Agreement Extension’ for SSS.

Two days later Phil Laplace, a former vice president of Tropical Shipping who provided consultancy services to the port, wrote to Mingo about the concession agreement: “This is not a working partnership with the port. They want to remain in control and do what they want.”

Laplace suggested in the same email that the port could profitably establish its own stevedoring company. The port would have to invest $1.2 million in some equipment and the stevedoring company could generate as much as $5 million a year.

In 2015, the port was blocked from establishing its own stevedoring company, although it remains unclear who blocked this potentially lucrative initiative.

Almost a year later, on November 10, 2016, Pelgrim sent another email to Mingo, who had apparently inquired about the ownership of that other company, SMPS. “I am not in a position to submit any UBO (ultimate beneficial ownership) information about SMPS to your finance department.”

To get that information, Mingo would have to address the issue with Max Pandt (since deceased), who functioned as the management for this company. Yet, our source maintains that SMPS is for 100 percent in the hands of Heyliger or his family.

In 2016, SSS reassured the port that it is not the owner of SMPS. But documents that surfaced during the Larimar-investigation show that both companies have the same owner.

Heyliger has more fingers in the port-pie: since 2001 he also owns the subleases at the port. These subleases generate an estimated $85,000 US Dollars in monthly rental income.

There is also an “Indian consortium” in play. According to our source, this consortium controls “a significant part of imports through wholesalers and large supermarkets.” This way, the consortium has “leverage at the port because they control a huge part of the imports.”

Heyliger’s political career began in 1995 when he was elected as a member of the Island Council, thus becoming the youngest ever elected politician in the Netherlands Antilles at the tender age of 25. In the so-called national government the DP formed that year with the SPA, Heyliger became the commissioner for tourism, economic affairs and transport.

After a brief stint as member of the Antillean parliament, Heyliger returned in 1999 to St. Maarten to become the commissioner for public works and public housing, a position he held for the next eleven years. His political positions gave Heyliger a lot of influence at government-owned companies like the harbor.

In the Zebec saga surrounding the flopped development of the Dutch Village, Zebec was “manipulated and defrauded,” our source says. Apparently, it was never the intention that this project would succeed.

To continue with the Dutch Village, the port did not only need the approval of two cruise lines (Carnival and Royal Caribbean), but also from the government shareholder representative and from the Indian consortium. Only Carnival gave the green light for the project.

Our source says that Heyliger was the architect of the stevedoring monopoly, a move in preparation for Global Ports Holding to take over all activities at the cruise and cargo port.

Tropical Shipping in the meantime controls 33 percent of the stevedoring concession as well as the provision of cruise lines. “This is the reason why Tropical was valuable in the Zebec-deal. This was initiated and planned by Heyliger.”

While Tropical was valued in the Global Port proposal at $29.7 million, the company was sold in the Zebec-deal for just $3 million. The price included all the heavy equipment (top lifters, trucks, forklifts, etc.), the building, furniture, the license, and everything else that was owned by SMPS, according to another source.

Global Ports Holding expressed its interest in St. Maarten’s port activities in 2019. According to the company’s head of business development in the Americas, Colin Murphy, Global Ports stood to invest between $265 and $310 million in the port. This included investments in the cruise piers, cranes for the cargo facility and payment of the port’s debts, estimated to be between $180 and $300 million.


Related articles:
How Heyliger delivered a near monopoly to Tropical Shipping (Part 1)
Mark Mingo: “I have done nothing wrong”
Follow the money
How Theo Heyliger’s “criminal conspiracy” pushed developer Zebec out of the Dutch Village development
Zebec’s attorney reveals Theo Heyliger’s “criminal conspiracy”
Letter Zebec lawyer to ODP et al
Letter Zebec lawyer to SMH Cruise
Civil inquiry: more “rotten apples” at the harbor