Published On: Sat, Jan 27th, 2024

Court bans Frans Richardson from politics for five years

PHILIPSBURG -- Former parliamentarian and founder of the United St. Maarten party (USp) Frans Richardson was sentenced by the Court of Appeal to 19 months of imprisonment and ordered to pay 192,690 guilders ($666,307) into St. Maarten’s crime fund for corruption, bribery and conflict of interest in the so-called Aquamarine case. The court also took away Richardson’s right to be elected for five years.

The Aquamarine-case has to do with the construction of the building for Bureau Telecommunication and Post (BTP) and its maintenance contract, the public prosecutor’s office states in a press release. Richardson’s business partner, Anthony Carty was at the time the director of BTP.

The court ruling is a blow for Richardson, because in an earlier ruling the Court in First Instance sentenced him to 12 months of imprisonment. On appeal the prosecution demanded a sentence of 17 months.

Richardson’s ban as a political candidate has also increased. The Court in First Instance imposed a ban of three years and on appeal the prosecution demanded 3.5 years, but the judges went beyond that and made it five years.

The court’s order to pay more than $666,000 into the crime fund stems from  Richardson’s role as shareholder of Actis, a company that was awarded the contract for implementing St. Maarten’s new telephone numbering plan. Another part of this ruling has to do with bribes Richardson pocketed as the chairman of the permanent parliamentary committee for Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunication in exchange for pushing a contract for a dredging company.

The court of appeal states in its January 24-ruling that Richardson was “guilty of accepting bribes as a member of parliament over a long period of almost six years. He has caused serious reputational damage to the prestige of the office purely for his own gain.”

The Court of Appeal agreed with the solicitor-general that it is particularly bad that Richardson had asked a businessman for a bribe on his own initiative. “This businessman therefore felt forced for years to pay large sums of money to obtain or retain a fair seat at the table.”

The ruling adds that Richardson has abused his parliamentary influence and that he enriched himself by accepting dividend payments “while he was directly partially assigned the supervision of that dividend-paying company.”

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