Published On: Sat, Jan 15th, 2022

Court orders former MP Frans Richardson and former Harbor-CEO Mark Mingo to pay

PHILIPSBURG — The Court in First Instance has ordered former parliamentarian Frans Richardson and the former director of the Harbor Group of Companies Mark Mingo in separate rulings to pay the country large amounts of money after their convictions for corruption.

The court sentenced Richardson to pay $107,050 (192,690 guilders) for his role in the Aquamarine investigation and $370,000 (666,000 guilders) for his role in the Emerald-case. If Richardson does not pay he will have to go to prison for 1,080 days (2 years and 11.5 months).

Mingo has to pay $4,989,599.75 (8,315,278 guilders) or go to prison for three years.

Richardson was already sentenced to pay on November 16 of last year, but the ruling was first published in rechtspraak.nl on January 13. In the Aquamarine-case, Richardson, founder of the United St. Maarten party (USp) who lost his seat in the 2020 elections, was sentenced to 12 months and a ban on his passive voting rights (the right to be elected) for 3 years.

The court found Richardson in the Aquamarine-case guilty of taking bribes and of participating in or accepting deliveries between September 2, 2013, and September 23, 2019.

Richardson took $94,800 in bribes from construction company Taliesin or its owner Carl Critchlow. As a 50 percent shareholder in CVE he also cashed $18,250 in dividend from ACTIS.

Taliesin paid Richardson to get the contract for hurricane repairs to the building that houses the Bureau Telecom and Post, the so-called LEA-building. Richardson also used his influence to get Taliesin contracts for maintenance work at BTP.

Richardson was also involved in setting up a contract between ACTIS and BTP that put ACTIS in charge of St. Maarten’s numbering plan. The court found that Richardson is a shareholder of Caribbean Value Estate (CVE) and that CVE in turn held shares in ACTIS. This way, Richardson had a direct interest in the contract between ACTIS and BTP.

At the time, Richardson was a member of the parliamentary committee for Tourism, Economic Affairs, Telecommunication and Transport. In that role he also supervised BTP.

Richardson’s attorney asked the court to deny the prosecution’s demand for payment, stating that he ought to be acquitted of the charges and otherwise to mitigate the amount because he had only received approximately $75,000 and because of his limited ability to pay.

The court denied these requests. “A limited ability to pay is only in order if it is immediately clear that the convict at that moment and in the future will no longer have the ability to pay. That is not plausible because up to now he has not repaid the bribes.”

In the Emerald-case Richardson was sentenced to 36 months in prison and to a 5 year ban on exercising his passive voting rights. The prosecution demanded that Richardson repays $370,000 (666,000 guilders). The convict’s attorney asked the court to mitigate the amount because the tax inspectorate had included the amount it its assessment and Richardson had already paid more than $318,600 in income tax because of it.

The court noted that it does not have to take tax levies into account in asset recovery-procedures. “Illegal income is taxable, but the levy will be voided through asset recovery.”

Another convict in the Emerald-case, former Harbor Group of Companies director Mark Mingo was sentenced by the court to 46 months of imprisonment and a 6-year ban on the right to a management position at any government-entity. The prosecution demanded a repayment of $4,989,699.75.

The demand is based on the investigation that revealed 272 invoices from seven different construction companies to the harbor. Mingo approved these invoices for payment, while the companies did little or no work for it. Investigators calculate the total damage to the harbor at more than $9.9 million, but because it remains unclear how much of the money went to Mingo, the court ruled that he has to split these damages with a co-conspirator, Checkmate-director O’Neal Arrindell.

The amount involved with the fraud through the 272 invoices totals more than $6.9 million. Between 2012 and 2014 the port also paid more than $3.1 million to companies of co-conspirator Arrindell for consultancy and agency-agreements. On invoices, these costs were labeled as mobilization costs and general conditions, but in reality the funds were used to pay Arrindell, who used the money to obtain dredging contracts.

The court sentenced Mingo according to the prosecution’s demand. If Mingo does not pay, he’ll have to go to prison for 3 years.