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Published On: Fri, Aug 12th, 2022

Real estate deals at the port are entangled in a complex web

PHILIPSBURG -- The role of financial manager Ron Elferink in real estate transactions at the port have remained unclear for a long time. When he was asked about it as a witness in the Zebec case on June 22, 2021, he invoked his right to remain silent. “Answering this question would expose me to criminal prosecution.” he said according to the minutes of this interrogation.

Jeroen Veen, the attorney for real estate developer Zebec asked Elferink at the time how his involvement in real estate transactions came about, citing a letter dated January 25, 2015, from Skylight Real Estate to St. Maarten Harbor Cruise Facilities. Elferink declined to answer, saying that he is a suspect in the Larimar-investigation.

The Larimar-case ended in 2020 in the Court in First Instance with a 5-year sentence for Theo Heyliger, the founder of the United People’s party; Elferink was sentenced to community service for money laundering.

The letter attorney Veen referred to during the witness-interrogation shows Elferink’s involvement in the real estate business. The letter states that Skylight takes over all responsibilities for an agreement Frivol Realty signed on September 30, 2003. This agreement refers to the 10-year lease of a ground floor shop of 160 square meters and office space of the same size at the cruise terminal. Elferink signed this letter as the managing director of Skylight.

Frivol was represented at this deal by a trust company; the agreement lists Diamonds International Watch and Design as the lessee. (See Fig. 1.) Moshe Hakimi is the managing director of this company; brothers Albert and Morris Gad are its shareholders.

The lessee agreed to pay a monthly lease-fee of $22,000 plus turnover tax (at the time 3 percent) for the first five years. Of this fee, $17,000 was to be paid to the Harbor Arcade and $5,000 to Frivol. Harbor Arcade also received a non-refundable franchise-fee of $250,000 and a security deposit of $22,000.

Elferink told the court in 2021 that a company called Skyline was a holding of which he was the ultimate beneficial owner. “I was the only shareholder of Skylight,” he said at the time.

Elferink arrived in 2011 in St. Maarten. Initially he worked in the banking sector for RBC as its Vice President Area Banking for St. Maarten and Saba. Later he became an independent entrepreneur and in 2015 he started working for St. Maarten Shipping & Stevedoring, a company owned by George Pelgrim.

During the witness-interrogation Elferink invoked his right to remain silent several times. He did not want to say which real estate Skylight had taken over from Frivol and whether Skylight paid Frivol for it. He also declined to explain why Skylight had taken over the Frivol-activities and how he came in a position that allowed him to lease real estate at the harbor.

One of the issues during the interrogation was a lease-contract between Skyline and Deliwo, a company controlled by Diamonds International. Elferink said at the time that this contract was never executed.

A copy of the contract dated April 13, 2017, between ODP (Ocean Drive Properties) and Deliwo shows that Skyline and Elferink were not involved in this deal: the contract partners were ODP, represented by Jelle Hamtra, and Deliwo, represented by Moshe Hakimi. Elferink said that he was not aware of this contract. Hamstra is the statutory director of ODP. Its ultimate beneficial owners are Peter Mirpuri (managing director of Ballerina Jewelers) and Danny Ramchandani.

There were other lease-agreements at the port where Elferink was involved. An example is the contract between Skyline and Yaelle (see Fig, 3 above), represented by Baback Hemarian. It was signed on February 16, 2015, for a retail store of 212 square meters at the cruise terminal. The monthly lease was $21,200 and Yaelle had to pay $350,000 to a contractor for finishing the building, as well as a $21,200 security deposit.

Skylight also signed a lease-agreement on January 21, 2015, with Utrima (see Fig, 2 above), represented by Ashok Aswani, for a retail store of 286 square meters at a monthly fee of $19,000. Utrima also agreed to pay a contractor $325,000 “in close consultation with Skylight.”

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