Today Newspaper: Court acquits Shigemoto

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GREAT BAY – The Court in First Instance acquitted former Finance Minister Hiro Shigemoto and the director of Global Advisory Services, Roberto G. yesterday of all charges against them. The prosecution demanded 8 months of imprisonment against Shigemoto at the trial on May 7, and 12 months plus a 233,000 guilders ($130,000) fine against Roberto G. The court found that there is insufficient evidence for a conviction.

The charges against both defendants were fraud, embezzlement, forgery and money laundering. The prosecution furthermore charged Shigemoto with embezzlement in his function as a civil servant, and violating the Accountancy Ordinance – the legislation that regulates how government officials have to handle the state’s finances.

The core of the charges was that Roberto G. submitted invoices for work his company did not do, and that Shigemoto gave the green light to pay them. This way, Global Advisory Services allegedly received in 2009 more than 233,000 guilders it was not entitled to.

The court notes in its ruling that the Island Territory of St. Maarten signed a service agreement with Global Advisory Services that covered the period January 1, to June 30, 2009. In 2011, the it extended the agreement retroactively to December 31, 2009. Under this agreement, the company recruited highly qualified staff for the Tax Inspectorate,

On July 20, 2009, the company received an assignment to act as the project leader for the Usona-financed project New Tax Inspectorate. The fee for this service was 336,000 guilders.

The disputed invoices are for the recruitment activities. The court notes that there is no question that the company did this work. “The position of the prosecution that these activities fell under the project New Tax Inspectorate has been insufficiently established,” the court ruling states.

The court furthermore acquitted Shigemoto of violating the Accountancy Ordinance by entering into a contract with Global Advisory Services without putting the project up for public tender. The court found that the Island Territory entered into this contract, not Shigemoto in his function as head of the finance department.

With Shigemoto, the court also let Roberto G. off the hook with an acquittal. The court furthermore found no proof that G. had forged the service contract by changing its end date to December 31, 2010. “The sole fact that there is a contract with December 31, 2009 as end date is insufficient,” the court ruled.

Source Today Newspaper