Published On: Tue, Oct 25th, 2022


By Hilbert Haar

StMaartenNews.com publisher Terrance Rey wrote an interesting column for dossierkoninkrijksrelaties.nl about the phenomenon of stooges in St. Maarten. I’d like to add a few elements to his observations.

A stooge, sometimes called a straw man, is somebody who fronts for somebody else. This way, the ultimate beneficial owner of a company remains in the shadows and if you are not careful, you have no idea whom you are doing business with.

Stooges will remain in business as long as politicians do not take any initiative to change relevant legislation.

How it works? Let’s say that somebody – he could be called Chris, or Claude, or Charlie or whatever, names don’t really matter – wants to open a business but he does not want others to know that he is the one calling the shots. What to do? He finds a stooge, somebody who, against a decent fee, will play the role of the business owner. So he goes to the Chamber of Commerce, fulfills all the bureaucratic requirements and is then duly registered as the managing director of company X.

But once the stooge returns from the Chamber of Commerce, there is a meeting with his handler. There is a shareholders meeting, maybe in a home in Middle Region, or maybe in an obscure restaurant on the French side of the island. In that meeting, the stooge transfers all shares of the company to his handler – and nobody is going to be the wiser.

Why? Because the shareholders registers of companies in St. Maarten are not public. You cannot go to the Chamber of Commerce and ask who the shareholder(s) is or are of any company. Not gonna happen. This way, the beneficial owners of many companies stay in the shadows while they exercise one hundred percent control.

Why does this matter? Suppose that a politician runs a company behind the facade of a stooge. Then, one day, this politician has to vote on an issue that directly affects his company. What is he going to do? Vote against his interests? Declare his position at the company and refrain from voting?

If we follow the numbers provided by Michael Ferrier, 68 percent of all politicians would do no such thing. They would all vote to protect their interests.

Time to change the relevant laws; right? Guess who has the power to do (or not to do) this? They are the same politicians who prefer shady business to transparency and who put their own interests above those of the country.

One only has to remember the resistance against salary cuts for politicians to understand what comes first: the politician or the country? It is, without any doubt, a sad state of affairs but it is the system we have created, the system we all support by the way we vote when the next elections come around. It is therefore safe to say that stooges have always been there and, whether you like it or not, they are here to stay.


Related articles:
Dutch Column Terrance Rey: Stromannen
Opinion piece: Village politics
Letter to the Editor: The Honourable Thing