Published On: Fri, May 8th, 2020

Former court branch manager remains liable

Court House Philipsburg St. Maarten

PHILIPSBURG – The former branch manager of the court in St. Maarten, Maritsa James-Christina, still has to repay the court more than a million dollars, even though the court for civil servants declared a higher claim against her by the Common Court of Justice inadmissible. The lien on an apartment building she co-owns also remains in place.

In January of this year, the civil servants court ruled James-Christina’s dismissal lawful. The ruling obliges the former branch manager to repay $1,015,295 to the Common Court of Justice.

The Common Court, however, wanted James-Christina to repay the real damages she has caused – an amount of $1,148,160 and it also wanted to seize her properties. The civil servants court declared this case inadmissible and ordered the Common Court to pay all court fees. The Common Court considers appealing the ruling.

The court denied James-Christina’s demand that the lien on her apartment building be lifted.

The Common Court of Justice sentenced James-Christina in January to the repayment of $1,015,295 she allegedly embezzled from the court’s third-party account between 2002 and 2017. This particular ruling excluded 43 checks of 5,500 guilders for lack of evidence that James-Christina has cashed them.

The court’s management council initiated an investigation into the financial affairs of the court in Philipsburg on November 24, 2017. Its controller and an accountant of Ernst&Young got “little cooperation” for their work but they soon discovered that at least part of the financial administration was missing.

The investigators found that between 2013 and 2017 361 checks signed by James-Christina and Leona Patrick had been issued to take money out of the third-party account. They did not find any justification for these withdrawals.

James-Christina made several claims in court to maintain her innocence. One argument was that she had signed checks (from 2002 forward) at the instruction of former court president Luis de Lannoy (who passed away in 2008); then she claimed that the checks were cashed by a former bailiff (known as Tall Boy) who has passed away in the meantime as well. Furthermore, the defendant claimed that she had given the money at the courthouse’s backdoor to someone she did not know, claiming she could not remember who had ordered her to do this.

James-Christina, whose name has been linked to gambling addiction based on several sightings at blackjack tables at the Princess Casino, faced swift action once the investigators found financial irregularities. On January 28, 2018, she was suspended for three months. Four months later the court’s management council announced its intention to fire its branch manager and on June 22, 2018, the dismissal became a fact.

The former branch manager is also facing criminal charges for the embezzlement. A court date has not been set yet.

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