Published On: Thu, Jan 30th, 2020

Prison time looms for parliamentarian Frans Richardson

Photo TIM VAN DIJK Courthouse vanaf dak DIAMONDS Juwelier boardwalk Sint Maarten. STOCKFOTO

PHILIPSBURG – The Court in First Instance sentenced Member of Parliament Frans Richardson, leader of the United St. Maarten party (USp) on Wednesday to 36 months of imprisonment for accepting $370,000 in bribes in return for his political support for a dredging project, and for tax fraud. The court revoked Richardson’s passive voting rights (the right to be elected) for a period of five years. During the recent elections Richardson already lost his seat in parliament.

The conviction is part of the so-called Emerald II-investigation into fraud at the Harbor Group of Companies. The court sentenced former harbor-director Mark Mingo to a prison sentence of 46 months for forgery and for swindling the harbor out of around $10 million. The court also banned Mingo from holding managerial functions at any government-owned company for a period of six years.

The third defendant in this case, Checkmate Security director O’Neal Arrindell is at the receiving end of a 66-month prison sentence. The court found Arrindell, brother of Akeem Arrindell who was recently elected to parliament as a member of the USp-faction, guilty of firearm possession, tax fraud and of bribing MP Richardson.

MP Frans RichardsonThe court considered the crimes “very harmful to the confidence the people of St. Maarten must be able to have in people in important positions, like politicians and managers of government-owned companies.” The actions of the three defendants had, in the opinion of the court, an undermining influence on society.

Richardson, Mingo and Arrindell have fourteen days to file appeals against their convictions.

The defendants escaped immediate incarceration; the court turned down a request to this extent from the public prosecutor because the defendants’ pre-trial detention was suspended in the past.

A possible appeal will probably go to court in the fall. If the convictions hold up there, the defendants could still go to the Supreme Court for a review of their trials. This process could take up to two years and potentially even longer. The sentences could therefore become irrevocable towards the end of 2022 or the beginning of 2023.

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