Five go on trial in Buncamper case

PHILIPSBURG--Former Minister Maria Buncamper-Molanus (47), her husband Claudius Buncamper (51), notary F.E.G. (70) and two other suspects I.A.H. (46) and T.O.W. (68) all were charged with involvement with fraud, forgery of documents and participation in a criminal organisation on Wednesday.
This marked the start of the long-awaited trial concerning a criminal investigation into a transaction with a piece of land that had been given on long lease.
All five suspects appeared in Court for a pro forma/pre-trial hearing in this case, during which the hearing of witnesses was discussed.
Buncamper-Molanus ran on the United People's (UP) party slate for the August 29, 2014, parliamentary election, but is a former Democratic Party (DP) minister of public health, social development and labour.
The case against the Buncampers came to light in December 2010, when it was revealed that they had sold the economic rights to a plot of land on long lease to a company named Eco Green NV, against payment of US $3 million.
Buncamper-Molanus had obtained the rights of long lease on the government property against annual payment of approximately US $10,000 in April 2008, while she was a member of the then-Executive Council.
Three days after Eco Green was established, with figurehead T.O.W. appointed as company director, the Buncampers sold the economic rights to the land to this company.
T.O.W. was a former Department of Public Works employee. Claudius Buncamper was head of this department for years.
Following these allegations, Buncamper-Molanus resigned as minister in December 2010. Then-Attorney-General Dick Piar already had given permission for a criminal investigation in 2011, but due to a number of big murder cases and several other time-consuming investigations, the Buncamper case had been put on the backburner, the Prosecutor's Office stated last year.
Buncamper-Molanus went to Court in an attempt to halt the investigations in this case, but the Court decided differently and gave the Prosecutor's Office until November 6, 2014, to finalise its investigations.
After the deadline was extended by another three weeks, the Prosecutor's Office announced on December 1, 2014, that Buncamper-Molanus had been indicted and summoned to appear in Court this month.
The charges were read out to the suspects during yesterday's pro-forma hearing. The Buncampers were charged not only with fraud and membership in a criminal organisation, but also with tax evasion concerning payment of profit tax over the years 2009, 2010 and 2011 on behalf of Eco Green, and failure to file income tax correctly over 2009 and 2010.
They were charged with forgery of several documents, among them a commercial lease agreement between Eco Green and St. Maarten Building Supplies N.V., mortgage documents and a deed concerning the right of long lease.
The Prosecutor's Office holds all suspects, with the Buncampers as their leaders, as members in a criminal organisation involved with forgery, tax evasion and the destruction of evidence, it was stated in the indictments.
Attorney-at-law Jairo Bloem, who will be representing the Buncampers and T.O.W. in this case, filed a request to hear 12 witnesses. Among witnesses to be heard are three legal experts in the field of taxation, who are to shed light on legal property and the local practice where the transfer of property is concerned.
Bloem also wants to hear Solicitor-General Taco Stein, Prosecutor Gonda van der Wulp and other judicial officials about the so-called undue delay in his clients' trial.
Prosecutor van der Wulp dismissed all these requests, as she considered them insufficiently motivated. She said it was "unheard of" that she also would be called to testify, as this was possible only under "very special circumstances."
I.A.H.'s lawyer Geert Hatzmann was in Bonaire. On his behalf, his colleague, attorney Willem Nelissen, requested a second pre-trial hearing during which Hatzmann could request the hearing of witnesses in his client's case.
Notary F.E.G., who was not represented by a lawyer, had not yet received his case file, and therefore was not able to file any requests.
On hearing this, the Judge decided to schedule a second pro-forma hearing for February 26, after which the Court will decide on all requests to hear witnesses. After that, the date for the actual trial will be set, possibly in May.
The Daily Herald
Maria Buncamper-Molanus (47), her husband Claudius Buncamper and T.O.W. are represented in this case by atorney Jairo Bloem of Bloem Bonapart & Aardenburg in Sint Maarten. I.A.H. was represented by lawyer Geert Hatzmann. Notary F.E.G. Was not represented by a lawyer.
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