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Published On: Mon, Jun 11th, 2018

Emerald-trial: forged invoices, bribes and tax fraud

Emerald investigation

PHILIPSBURG – Three high-profile defendants appeared in court on Monday morning for the highly anticipated first step in the Emerald-trial: Member of Parliament Frans Richardson, suspended Port Director Mark Mingo and Checkmate Security Director O’Neal Arrindell. The next pro forma hearing in this case will take place on October 31.

When members of the Team Bestrijding Ondermijning (TBO) – the anti-corruption task force – arrested MP Richardson on Valentine’s Day this year the charges against him included membership of a criminal organization that engaged in vote buying during the 2016 parliamentary elections. But the summons that brought Richardson to court on Monday did not include these allegations.

The leader of the United St. Maarten party (USp) is currently facing charges for taking bribes to the tune of $370,000, money laundering and submitting incorrect tax returns between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2014.

According to the summons, Richardson received a payment of $180,000 around July 30, 2012, and another payment of $190,000 around December 20, 2012.

The first payment arrived just three months after Richardson, together with Romain Laville and Patrick Illidge – all three independent members of Parliament at the time – had brought down the government during the infamous carnival coup and entered into a coalition with the National Alliance and the Democratic Party.

Richardson and Laville appointed Romeo Pantophlet as their minister of Tourism and Economic Affairs. Pantophlet would soon get to work to fire the members of the supervisory board at the harbor.

On December 20 of that year, the exact day when the port hit a high mark of 1.7 million cruise passengers, Richardson allegedly received his second payment of $190,000.

Richardson’s paymaster was, according to the public prosecutor, Checkmate Security director O’Neal Arrindell.

The prosecution is charging Arrindell with forging around 300 invoices for seven different small contractors between April 1, 2012 and July 1, 2017. The companies invoiced the port of St. Maarten for “work that was not, or only partially performed,” the summons states.

The summons also states that Arrindell fleeced the port for around $8 million through these invoices.

Between July 1, 2012 and June 1, 2014, O’Neal – in cooperation with Port Director Mark Mingo and dredging company Devcon – furthermore invoiced the port $3 million for “mobilization costs” and “general conditions.” In reality, the summons notes, “these costs were made to pay the suspect and one or more of his companies.”

Charge number five against Arrindell is the payment of $370,000 in bribes to MP Frans Richardson. He is also charged with firearm possession. On November 28, 2016, investigators found a Glock pistol and a cartridge-clip with ammunition in his house.

The third suspect, suspended Port Director Mark Mingo is basically facing the same charges as Arrindell. According to the prosecution, Mingo fed Arrindell with information about alleged jobs to be used as the basis for forged invoices. Mingo signed off on the invoices so that they could be paid. The value of all these invoices remained below 50,000 guilders so that they did not require approval from the supervisory board of directors.

Mingo also signed off on the $3 million invoice for dredging company Devcon.

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