PORT ST. MAARTEN – The Port St. Maarten Group of Companies (the “Port”) has taken notice of the local and Dutch media reports in relation to the inquiry proceedings pending before the Court of Appeal. Although it is the policy of the Port not to comment on pending legal proceedings before the Court has issued a ruling, the Port wishes to rectify or clarify certain incorrect statements made, Port St. Maarten Management said on Wednesday.
“The request for an inquiry into the Port’s management originated from a complaint letter that was sent to the Public Prosecutor by the lawyers of Zebec Development N.V. At that time the Port was involved in a legal dispute with that company concerning the failed Dutch Village Project.
“Eventually that case was settled, however, the allegations raised by Zebec Development’s lawyers led the Public Prosecutor to investigate the Port. During a period of two years, the Port provided the Public Prosecutor with answers to an array of questions and provided large quantities of documents that were requested, despite the fact that no specific allegations or complaints were made by the Public Prosecutor during this time.
“In response to the allegations raised by the Public Prosecutor against the Port that form the basis for the request for an inquiry into the Port’s management, the Port submitted a written response to the Court. In that response and during the court hearing on 24 May 2018, the Port has agreed with the Public Prosecutor that certain matters raised by it were valid. For example, for several years the Port’s supervisory board operated with fewer members than required under its articles of association.
“As of August 2017 the Port again complies with this requirement. Another valid matter raised by the Public Prosecutor is that the shareholder of the Port did not timely approve the Port’s annual accounts. The shareholder, as represented by the Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunication, has indicated that this will be resolved on short notice. In respect of the Emerald case the Port has indicated to the Public Prosecutor that if the alleged fraud is proven in court, measures will be taken by the Port against those that can be held accountable.
“Should the Public Prosecutor’s pending criminal investigation into the 2010 Causeway tender procedure also result in convictions, the Port is committed to take any appropriate action available.
“During the past few months while the Port was faced with challenging post-Irma conditions, significant steps have been taken by the Port’s acting management board and its supervisory board to strengthen its performance in terms of corporate governance, integrity and compliance. Internal procedures were reviewed and, where necessary, amended or supplemented.
“In accordance with the request of the Public Prosecutor, the Port has now implemented a whistleblower and non-retaliation policy. The Port has also created the positions of a confidential counselor and a compliance officer which are expected to be filled after the selected candidates pass an internal screening. Given that the Government has also decided to institute the Integrity Chamber where interested parties can report problems within state-owned companies, the Port feels that there are now sufficient opportunities for persons to report any perceived integrity related issues.
“Based on all measures taken by the Port during the past few months, the Public Prosecutor withdrew several injunctive measures against the Port. For example, the demands to suspend the entire supervisory board and to have the Court appoint an interim Chief Executive Officer and new supervisory board were all dropped by the Public Prosecutor. For the Port, this action by the Public Prosecutor confirms that it has faith in the current acting management and the supervisory board and all actions that have been taken in relation to governance, compliance and integrity.
“The Court of Appeal is expected to render its decision on whether it will order an investigation into the Port on June 26, 2018. The Port has full confidence in a positive outcome of the case and is committed to continue to fully cooperate with the Public Prosecutor in the pending investigations,” Port St. Maarten Management concludes.