Published On: Thu, Oct 18th, 2018

Court missing $1.148.160 US Dollars from 3rd parties account

Court Room St. Maarten

PHILIPSBURG — The Joint Court of Justice branch in Philipsburg is missing $1.148.160 US Dollars from its third parties bank account. Court documents in the appeal case of the dismissed court manager Maritsa James-Christina reveal that over a period of five years dating from 2012 to 2017 substantial amounts were withdrawn from the account using pre-signed blank cheques. According to the court verdict in the dismissal appeal case, these periodic withdrawals totaling well over $1.1 million dollars were properly documented in a financial audit report conducted on March 12, 2018. The question now remains is what happened to this money?

In embezzlement cases judges are often quick to question whether any control mechanism for checks and balances were place to prevent embezzlements from occurring. The idea is that if there are no proper controls in place, as the saying goes in Dutch, opportunity makes a thief.

Therefore it is rather ironic that exactly a judges’ office environment is now at the heart of an embezzlement case and the arguments put forward in defense of the dismissed office manager are that there were no guidelines in place for the management of the funds of third party accounts and that there were insufficient staff in place to ensure adequate administration of these third party funds.

Unfortunately, for the dismissed court manager, who is currently being detained as the National Detectives continue their criminal investigation into this embezzlement case, these defense arguments did not hold up in court. The Court in First Instance in Philipsburg on Tuesday, October 16, 2018, ruled that all appeals filed against the dismissal were unfounded. Naturally, appealing this decision is also possible at the Court of Appeal.

So what happened to the money?

Once the National Detectives got involved in this case, the investigation was dubbed “Triggerfish” by the Public Prosecutor’s Office. This is usually an indication of the severity of the case and the amount of the missing funds in question now confirms this.

On Wednesday, March 21, 2018, published an article that the court registrar was suspected of “irregularities”. On September 24, 2018, media outlet published an exclusive interview with the lawyer of the aforementioned court registrar proclaiming her innocence. Unfortunately, the court of public opinion does not make any rulings in these matters. That is the exclusive authority of a competent court of law.

Nevertheless, the inhumane situation of our local detention and prison cells on St. Maarten will play a prominent role in a possible future appeal case as the lawyer has pointed out that her client remains in pre-trial detention despite a letter from her doctor indicating that she is not medically fit for detention. The lawyer, attorney Zylena Bary, is also contesting the fact that proper procedures in the criminal investigation case are not being followed.

Regarding the question what happened to the funds withdrawn from the third party account which is used to deposit monies seized from criminals, allegations that regular casino visits by the court manager in question may give cause to suspect where this substantial amount of monies has disappeared to. Hopefully, the ongoing criminal investigation by the National Detectives and any subsequent prosecution of this case will shed some light on that question.

The spokesperson of the Prosecutor’s Office confirmed to that indeed the criminal investigation against James-Christina is still ongoing and that on Tuesday the court also denied an appeal against the suspect’s 60-day pre-trial detention.


Relevant links in this case: