Published On: Thu, Feb 15th, 2018

Crime fund management under fire

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Ronald HalmanPHILIPSBURG – The Crime Fund received in 2016 almost 1.3 million guilders from the verdict in the Bientu-case whereby Robbie’s Lottery owner Robbie dos Santos was sentenced to a 2-year conditional prison sentence for money laundering, forgery and tax fraud. The public prosecutor also confiscated 72.5 million guilders and most of that money stayed in Curacao.

The contribution to St. Maarten’s Crime Fund in 2016 appears from a highly critical report published by the General Audit Chamber – Quick Scan Crime Prevention Fund. The report criticizes the way the ministry of justice manages the fund and questions the way it spends this money.

In 2016, the Crime Fund received more than 1.8 million guilders consisting of the Bientu-settlement, 420,600 guilders in fines and almost 149,00 guilders from the registrar. At the end of 2016, the fund had more than 1.4 million guilders in the bank.

The Audit Chamber questions the way the money from the fund was used in 2016. The objective of the Crime Fund is to finance projects that combat crime.

Under the political responsibility of Justice Minister Edson Kirindongo,  the fund spent 15,940 guilders on the implementation of a number plate registration, 16,200 guilders on the renovation of the offices of the National Detective Agency and 204,480 guilders on insurance for staff of the justice ministry.

The fund also provided technical support to the Financial Intelligence Unit (14,687.50), and spent money on the transport of a criminal to the Netherlands (4,713.20), the equipment of the K9-unit (226,515.67) and on electronic ankle bracelets (136,500 guilders).

Especially the money spent on ankle bracelets, the transport of a criminal to the Netherlands, the number plate registration and the insurance for the staff are at odds with the fund’s objectives, the Audit Chamber writes in its report.

The auditors also checked sixteen different laws against the way the fund is being managed and found that the fund managers only abide by four of them.

It is unclear who is responsible for the fund. Based on the national ordinance Crime Fund the minister of justice manages the fund and the day-to-day management is the responsibility of the head of the department of judicial affairs. But a ministerial decree dated December 1, 2010 – and therefore authorized by then Minister of Justice Roland Duncan – the ministry’s secretary-general is authorized to execute all financial transactions for the fund.

According to the Audit Chamber, this ministerial decree is still valid today.

The chamber expresses its displeasure with the lack of cooperation from the ministry with the audit. On November 30 the secretary-general at the justice ministry received the draft report with the option to react to its content before December 15. The Audit Chamber did not receive that reaction,.

On December 19, the chamber sent the report to the minister. After it granted an extension twice, the chamber finally received a reaction a day after the final deadline, on January 11, 2018.

“That the work pressure is higher than normal does not alter the fact that he has within his ministry an organization of full time equivalents at his disposal. We do not consider this as an argument to react belatedly,” the report states.

“In the current political climate, with elections on the horizon, this way of cooperation is unacceptable. In the past the minister has indicated that he will give his full cooperation to investigations by the General Audit Chamber.”

This last remark refers to a statement in the Today newspaper from June 22, 2017. “I have assured the General Audit Chamber that the Ministry of Justice respects its tasks and that under this minister it will fully cooperate,” Justice Minister Rafael Boasman said a day before the publication at a Council of Ministers press briefing.

But the Audit Chamber did not experience that cooperation: “Unfortunately, the practice is different. “We had expected more interest and involvement with the objective of the report, namely the improvement of the fund’s financial management.”

Click here to download the report Quick Scan Crime Prevention Fund