~Sentenced to 12 months conditional imprisonment~
By Today Newspaper
GREAT BAY – Former Public Health Minister Maria Buncamper-Molanus and her husband Claudius, head of infrastructure management at the Vromi-ministry, have been found guilty of tax fraud to the tune of 80,000 guilders and forgery. The court imposed on both a conditional prison sentence of 12 months and 240 hours of community service.
The court sentenced retired notary Francis Gijsbertha for his role in the Eco Green scam to 240 hours of community service. Ivan Havertong, director of Sint Maarten Building Supplies (SBS) was sentenced to a 3-month conditional prison sentence and 120 hours of community service. Oniel Theodore Walters, whom the Buncampers used as a figurehead in his role as director of Eco Green was acquitted of all charges.
Only the Buncampers attended the sentencing hearing yesterday morning. Havertong and Gijsbertha were not on the island and attorney Brenda Brooks had advised her ailing client Walters to stay home.
The ruling is a big blow for former Minister Buncamper-Molanus. With this verdict to her name, she will not be able to become the next director of social insurance agency SZV, a position she has applied for and for which she was rumored to be the best candidate. However, candidates for the top job at SZV have to go through a screening process by the national security service VDSM and due to the verdict, Buncamper-Molanus will not pass such a test.
What the verdict will do to the position of Claudius Buncamper as the head of infrastructure management at the ministry of Vromi is unclear. The LMA – the rulebook that contains the rights and duties of civil servants – says in article 92 that a civil servant can be suspended when he becomes the subject of a criminal investigation. Buncamper became a suspect in the Eco Green investigation when detectives interrogated him in the fall of 2014, but a suspension measure was never effectuated. Dismissal is only possible, according to article 102 of the LMA, after an irrevocable prison sentence that takes one’s freedom away (in other words – an unconditional sentence). Since the sentence against Buncamper is conditional, dismissal is not an issue.
The court rulings show what the Buncampers had in mind when they established Eco Green on December 19, 2008. Notary Gijsbertha dubbed Eco Green as a “dummy corporation” and a “figurehead construction.” By “selling” the economic ownership of the piece of land on Pond Island that is in use by SBS – and by then having Eco Green “lease” the same land to SBS, the Buncampers found a way to evade taxes. SBS paid $18,750 per month in rent to Eco Green, and this company then paid the same amount of money to the Buncampers as part of the fake purchase agreement. Rent revenue would fall under the income tax for the Buncampers, but the “profit” from the sale of economic ownership is tax free.
This way, the Buncampers shortchanged the tax inspectorate for 80,000 guilders ($44,693).
The prosecutor’s office has already announced that it will initiate a procedure to seize 635,000 guilders ($354,750) in illicit profits the Buncampers made from the fraudulent scheme.