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Published On: Fri, Sep 17th, 2021

Penal law scholars question deployment of TBO-prosecutors and judges

PHILIPSBURG — The Association of St. Maarten Penal Law Scholars has approached Minister of Justice Anna Richardson with questions about the deployment of Curacao-based prosecutors, judges, judges of instruction, registrars and police officers that are associate with the TBO (Team Bestrijding Ondermijning) – the anti-corruption task force.

The association’s chairman Cor Merx, secretary Safira Ibrahim and treasurer A. Richardson wonder whether the minister and the parliament are aware of the organization and whether TBO-staff operates in St. Maarten with or without the minister’s permission.

“It is every time a mystery which crimes fall under undermining criminality but you can be sure that they concern large investigations (for instance against parliamentarians, former ministers and large construction companies),” the letter states.

The letter does not specifically refer to it , but there is one such impending trial and that is the trial of parliamentarian Claudius Buncamper (United St. Maarten party) that is scheduled for September 27 and 28.

It is peculiar, the attorneys note, that the TBO-investigations are for 90 percent about crimes committed in St. Maarten, “while we have our own police force, prosecutor’s office and judicial authorities with a judge of instruction and a registrar.”

The Association notes that Curacao-based TBO-officers are increasingly deployed in St. Maarten based on article 8 of the kingdom law that regulates the authority of the public prosecutor’s offices on the islands of the former Netherlands Antilles. This article states that prosecutors are “authorized and deployable” in each of the countries. The article also states that the ministers (of justice) make agreements about the use of prosecutors in other countries than the country where they have been appointed.

“The question is whether you have made agreements about this,” the Association’s letter states.

Verdicts in cases that have been handled in St. Maarten carry headings that read Court in First Instance of Curacao, “while the prosecutors indicate that they are from our local prosecutor’s office while in reality they are coming from Curacao.”

The Association furthermore points out that items that have been confiscated after house searches in St. Maarten are taken off-island, while the law stipulates that they must be stored in St. Maarten.

The association states that it is “painful” that the attorney-general issues guidelines for the territory of St. Maarten without any consultation with local authorities or with the criminal defense attorneys who are members of the association.

The association asks the minister to put the appointment and extension of terms for judges and prosecutors in St. Maarten on the agenda.

“These appointments occur with your approval based on nominations you have received. Because a nomination can be about “old”, returning and new judges we are of the opinion that you should inform attorney-organizations about your considerations to arrive at sound decisions.”

Photo caption: File photo of TBO officers investigating a case on St. Maarten. Photo by LB.

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