Buncamper-Molanus “should have set the right example”

Sint Maarten Courthouse

By Today Newspaper

GREAT BAY – Maria Buncamper-Molanus was “a well-known politician in St. Maarten who should have set the right example,” the Court in First Instance notes in its ruling that convicts the former minister to a 1-year conditional prison sentence and 240 hours of community service.

Claudius Buncamper – punished likewise – was on the receiving end of a similar reproach: “From a civil servant, we expected a more exemplary behavior.”

The court held against the Buncampers also the way they treated St. Maarten Building Supplies and its director Ivan Havertong. “SBS was in a difficult position because it could not find another spot for its commercial activities. In a sense SBS and co-suspect Havertong were in a straightjacket. Under those circumstances the suspects even have attempted to fleece SBS by invoicing unrealistically high amounts.”

The court notes in its ruling that a prison sentence is appropriate. It arrived however at conditional prison sentences based on the fact that the case is relatively old.

The court rejected however the defense argument that the prosecution has violated the reasonable term for prosecuting its clients.

“This term begins at the moment when the suspect could have reasonable expected to be prosecuted.”

When Today revealed on December 8, 2010 that the Buncampers had sold the economic ownership of the land on Pond Island for $3 million to Eco Green, the suspects were for the first time confronted with reports that something could be amiss. On December 23, 2010, Buncamper-Molanus was forced to step down as minister of public health.

The order for a criminal investigation followed on May 12, 2012. On June 19, 2014, Buncamper-Molanus filed a request to the court to end the case or to set a term for finishing the investigation. The court set a term of three months and the prosecutor’s office completed the investigation within that time. On December 11, 2014, the Buncampers received their first summons to appear in court.

During the three months the prosecutor’s office took to complete its investigation, the Buncampers were heard for the first time as suspects.

The defense argued that the reasonable term began in 2010, after the revelations in Today. The court disagreed: “Reports in the media do not imply that the suspect could have expected to be prosecuted. The defense has not made clear on the basis of which concrete facts the suspect could have expected prosecution at that time.”