MP Emmanuel asks Integrity Chamber to provide opinion on Ballast Nedam selection

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PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — Independent Member of Parliament Christophe Emmanuel on Thursday asked the Integrity Chamber to provide its opinion on whether the awarding of the reconstruction of the airport project to Ballast Nedam by the Supervisory Board of the Princess Juliana Airport operating company (PJIAE) constitutes an act or a failure by an administrative body or government entity to adhere to values and norms, legal requirements, or other obligations through which the interest of society, or the proper functioning of an administrative body or government entity could be harmed.

His letter to the Integrity Chamber is the first of its kind to the Chamber from a Member of Parliament. The MP pointed out to the Integrity Chamber that Ballast Nedam between 1996 and 2003, was investigated by the Dutch Tax Authorities’ Investigative Department FIOD for paying bribes to the Saudi kings Fahd and Abdullah and government officials in Suriname for rights to execute projects in those countries.

According to public reports by FIOD, in exchange for construction contracts, Ballast Nedam paid bribes to legal entities in Liechtenstein, the British Virgin Islands, Cyprus and Jersey, among other places. These legal entities funneled the money to the Saudi kings.

However, the company and the Public Prosecutor reached a 17.5 million euros settlement on this bribery case in 2012. Additionally in 2003 Ballast Nedam was also fined in the construction fraud case, for which cartel watchdog NMa fined the company. Ballast Nedam has apparently also been in the center of corruption cases involving the firm KPMG and others going back some decades.

As such, the MP asked the Chamber to provide its opinion on the awarding of the winning bid for the airport project to Ballast Nedam based on its history. Additionally, the Integrity Chamber is also requested to provide its opinion on whether the decision by PJIAE, supported by the Shareholder of PJIA (the Government of St. Maarten) to award Ballast Nedam the reconstruction contract for the airport despite its history, is in conflict with the World Bank’s procurement policies, its values and norms in working with other entities as well as its anti-corruption guidelines and sanctions framework.

Copies of the MP’s letter were sent to The Governor of St. Maarten, The Parliament of St. Maarten, The Council of Ministers of St. Maarten, The Prosecutor’s Office of St.Maarten, The Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations of the Netherlands, The Government of Aruba, The Government of Curacao, The First and Second Chambers of the Netherlands and The Dutch Representative Office on St. Maarten.

“Everyone wants to see the airport back up and running. But such actions continue to defeat the purpose that State Secretary Knops and the local government try to build their arguments on to gain a foothold at the airport. False purpose is always exposed when the truth comes out. You cannot preach integer corporate actions and good corporate governance but accept a company that settled million-dollar bribery charges,” MP Emmanuel said.

The Integrity Chamber is an independent body with the core tasks of rendering advices and giving proposals, investigating suspected misconducts within administrative bodies, and to continuously provide information to strengthen awareness about the importance of integrity in the community.