September 27, 2012 7:56 AM
PHILIPSBURG--Building inspector Shirnon A.B. Trinidad at the Ministry of Public Housing, Spatial Development, Environment and Infrastructure (VROMI) was sentenced for bribery and forgery in the Court of First Instance on Wednesday.
The 41-year-old man, who is still at large, was sentenced to 12 months, six of which were suspended, with three years' probation.
The Court also banned him from the civil service for three years. The Prosecutor's Office had requested a five-year ban, during the September 5 court hearing.
The defaulting inspector reportedly has left the island and possibly is staying in The Netherlands, Prosecutor Georges van den Eshof said at the time. He added that the Prosecutor's Office would seek the execution of a prison sentence in The Netherlands. An international warrant will be issued if the man has fled to another country.
Judge Tamara Tijhuis found the inspector guilty of accepting bribes between September 1 and November 23, 2011, a crime punishable by four years.
The civil servant accepted bribes of NAf. 600 in total, from the owners of Monte Oro hotel and Li Bin Supermarket at A.Th. Illidge Road, in exchange for which he would have refrained from taking action after he found several deficiencies in these persons' companies.
Wearing an official VROMI uniform, he said he would submit these businesses to a general inspection. During these inspections he noted various deficiencies, such as defective paintwork, improper ventilation and an untidy backyard.
He made his assessment of the structural condition of the buildings by using forged and unauthorised Safety Warning Letters, which were provided with a false signature of a colleague-inspector.
Trinidad had claimed he had the authority to close the businesses down, but offered his victims a way out. "If I help you, you have to help me back," he told the business owners. "What am I gonna do with that? I want something else," the inspector had said, haughtily turning down supermarket items that were offered.
VROMI Head of Inspection Henry Ellis explained the proper procedure to be followed in case defects are found. He stated that inspectors are to issue a written warning and report the case to the Head of Inspection, who is then to decide on any future steps. He added that violations always have to be reported to him.
After his arrest, Trinidad claimed the money was part of a loan he had closed to be able to travel to Panama to visit his sick father. The Judge dismissed this statement as being "implausible."
The Prosecutor had described the defendant as a "rotten apple" within the civil service, who had tarnished the image of "young country St. Maarten" and had harmed the island's economy and safety.
The defendant was not represented by a lawyer.
In his ruling, Judge Tijhuis stated that civil servants are to carry out their duties and should not pursue personal interests.
In the committed crimes, the inspector had put his own interests first, had abused his position and had misused public trust. He had also damaged the public image of the civil service, the Judge stated.
(The Daily Herald)