PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten – On Tuesday 18 February 2020, the Anti-Corruption Task Force (TBO) searched a business premises and various archive storages on Sint Maarten under the supervision of the judge of instruction. No arrests were made.
The searches were carried out in relation to an extensive criminal investigation codenamed “Ruby”. This investigation began in July 2018 and concentrates on the phenomenon of – alleged – bid rigging regarding contracts related to waste processing on Sint Maarten. Investigation Ruby mainly focuses on the suspicion of administrative corruption, in particular the acceptance of bribes and the misuse of public funds for personal purposes.
The company subject to the search – and its management – are currently not considered as suspects in the investigation. Based on strong indications that information relevant to the investigation was available within the company, the Public Prosecutor’s Office issued a written demand to the company’s management for disclosure of such information. This took place last year. Although the company has been given ample time, this demand was – presumably intentionally – not complied with in a satisfactory manner. This is one of the reasons why the Public Prosecutor’s Office requested permission from the judge of instruction to search the business premises and archive storages: to seize the relevant information.
It is important to emphasize that the level of compliance with a demand from the Public Prosecutor’s Office is not without obligation or at the sole discretion of the addressed party. On the contrary: it is legally required to comply fully. Failure to sufficiently cooperate with the judicial authorities could result in a serious impediment to a criminal investigation. The consequences should not be underestimated: such party accepts the risk of being subject to an unannounced search by the investigation services to secure the requested information.
In addition to this, refusal to comply with such judicial demand can be qualified as nonobservance of an official order. This is a criminal offence.
TBO is a project-based collaboration between designated units of the criminal investigation cooperation team (RST) and the Attorney General’s Office of Curaçao, Sint Maarten and Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba. TBO focuses on a specialized approach to combat corruption and undermining financial and economic crime. Additionally, the team investigates fraud, forgery and money laundering.
It is important for a well-functioning democratic society that citizens have confidence in public administration. Administrative corruption is a multi-faceted phenomenon that occurs typically when public and private interests converge. Corruption undermines the integrity of the government and leads to unfair commercial competition. For this reason, TBO takes indications of corruption very serious and, if necessary, conducts in-depth investigations.