Published On: Wed, Oct 9th, 2019

TBO investigations prove entanglement upper- and underworld, Knops says

Staatssecretaris-Raymond-Knops - cn jsPHILIPSBURG – The Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations is investing €70 million ($77 million) in combating corruption in Curacao, St. Maarten and the BES-islands between 2016 and 2021. This appears from a letter State Secretary Raymond Knops sent to the Dutch parliament on October 7. In it, Knops details the results of the anti-corruption task force (Team Bestrijding Ondermijning – TBO) since it started in 2016.

In 2015, the ministry made €22 million available for a period of two years to combat undermining criminality on the islands. During the Judicial Four Party Consultation in 2015 the justice ministers of the four kingdom countries agreed to the necessity of improving the fight against crime in the Caribbean.

The justice ministers’ concerns were inspired “by three reports that painted a worrisome picture of the undermining issues in St. Maarten,” Knops writes.

The TBO began its work in 2016 but already a year later it was decided to continue the project until at least 2021. Starting in 2018, Knops predecessor Ronald Plasterk made €12 million a year available for the project, bringing the total investment for the 2016-2021 period to €70 million.

“The results of the investigations up to now confirm the need for this approach – and the suspicions of the entanglement of the upper- and the underworld.”

Knops refers to investigations into politically exposed persons and into vast criminally obtained capital. “In the investigations up to now suspicions of criminal involvement have surfaced of politicians, civil servants, important government-owned companies, organizations in the (semi) private collective sector and private enterprises. These cases deal with corruption, tax fraud, money laundering, forgery, fraud and embezzlement.”

As examples, Knops mentions the investigation into large-scale fraud at the harbor, an investigation into an unnamed former member of parliament who hid criminal gains in Romania, the investigation against Windward Roads and suspended MP Theo Heyliger – without mentioning their names – and the investigation into real estate fraud at the Bureau Telecommunication and Post. The case against the head of security at the airport and the case against Francesco Corallo, whereby authorities put a lien on assets with an estimated value of $90 million are also mentioned in the letter.

Knops writes that the awareness about corruption is increasing in St. Maarten. “There is an increased resistance in the community against corruption and the preparedness to cooperate with the police is on the rise.

“The investigations show that the Caribbean part of the Kingdom is open to large (international) criminal influences and that the challenges are serious,” Knops concludes.