Security service chief hid at Tamarind Hotel

PHILIPSBURG - Suspended National Security Service St. Maarten VDSM chief James Richardson went into hiding in Tamarind Hotel for four months last year, for fear of an attempt on his life by "murderous drug criminals," Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reported on Saturday.
 
According to De Telegraaf, Richardson also had ordered the construction of a security wall around his house. The cost of the wall's construction and Richardson's hotel expenses were borne by VDSM.
 
The VDSM chief formally is allowed to declare expenses made for his personal security, but the amounts – for example, where hotel cost is concerned – are being contested by Government Accountants Bureau SOAB. These investigations, in which possible financial misappropriation within the VDSM was described, were reason to suspend the VDSM chief.
 
Richardson claimed he spent US $32,000 on the hotel during his hiding period. The hotel bills, which De Telegraaf claims to have in its position, only amount to $14,000. According to the hotel, the bill is not yet fully paid.
 
Richardson has been sitting at home since September. He is suspended, but is still receiving his salary.
According to De Telegraaf, "observers" said he had been suspended after he uncovered corruption among government officials with ties to a "notorious Italian businessman." Richardson allegedly created bad blood after he issued a negative advice concerning the businessman's appointment to an "important financial institution."
 
Persons in government allegedly were also unhappy with VDSM's security screening of members of the new Council of Ministers led by Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams. "A similar investigation led to the downfall of Prime Minister of Curaçao Gerrit Schotte in August 2012," wrote the Dutch daily.
 
Tamarind Hotel management vividly remembers Richardson's stay. "The family stayed in Tamarind-54, our largest and best unit. They really made a dirty mess. During the three years I'm working here, we have never had to polish that long to clean a unit again," Tamarind management was quoted as saying.
 
The choice of location for the hideout was called "remarkable," because the hotel is hardly secured and not secluded.
Richardson claimed it was necessary for him to go into hiding because he had been threatened in connection with the Vesuvius case involving a murderous drug gang. The Vesuvius case is the largest criminal investigation to date in St. Maarten. Thirty suspects were interrogated in 11 countries during the 12-month investigations. Twenty homes were searched and 17 firearms and silencers, hundreds of bullets, bulletproof vests, wigs and masks were confiscated. The $2 million investigations resulted in a 10,000-page case file. The two main suspects in this case were sentenced to life, but are appealing the verdicts.
 
Prime Minister Wescot-Williams said in July that SOAB investigations had uncovered irregularities in the VDSM budget and that "considerable expenditures" were not accounted for. According to her, the first signals about possible embezzlement and corruption within VDSM already had surfaced in April.
 
Richardson and his attorney declined to comment, because they are currently in consultation with government concerning the financial accounts. However, they told De Telegraaf they were "optimistic" about the outcome of this "bizarre" labour dispute.

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