The case remained on the shelves of the Prosecutor’s Office for a long time. Even so long that Maria Buncamper filed a court case to “force” the Prosecutor’s Office to make a decision whether or not to prosecute her. The former Commissioner lost the procedure and is now facing criminal charges.
In the meantime, several procedural hearings were held concerning the questioning of witnesses. The case hit another snag as well as more delay on January 12. That day the Joint Court of Justice’s Chamber of Recusal was called in to hear lawyer Jairo Bloem’s request on the Buncampers’ behalf to challenge Judge Peter Lemaire who is presiding over the case.
The request to remove Judge Lemaire from the case was heard by a three-judge panel in Curaçao during a closed-door video-conference.
The defence had claimed the Judge would have been biased in this case, but the Chamber did not find any grounds to reach the conclusion that there was an “objective fear that the Judge would be biased during the continuation of the case.” Therefore, the request for Lemaire’s disqualification was turned down.
This week’s hearings will concern charges of involvement in fraud, forgery of documents and participation in a criminal organisation, relating to a transaction with a piece of land that had been given on long-lease.
In December 2010, documents surfaced in which it was revealed that the Buncampers had sold the economic rights to a plot of land on long-lease to a company named Eco Green N.V., against payment of US $3 million.
Buncamper-Molanus had obtained the right of long-lease of 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 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.
The Buncampers are charged not only with fraud and membership in a criminal organisation, but also with tax evasion in relation to payment of profit tax on behalf of Eco Green over the years 2009, 2010 and 2011, and failure to file income tax correctly during 2009 and 2010.
They were charged with forgery of several documents, including 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 leading them, as members in a criminal organisation involved with forgery, tax evasion and the destruction of evidence.
During the hearings all five suspects will be questioned about the alleged crimes, after which the Prosecutor’s Office is to provide their closing speech, which most likely contain the demand that penalties be imposed.
The suspect’s lawyers may then respond to the Prosecutor’s demand. The lawyers’ pleadings are expected to include requests to declare the Prosecutor’s Office inadmissible in the cases against their clients due to violations of rights in the preliminary stages of the investigations and for so-called undue delay. The trial against the Buncampers and their three co-suspects is expected to take two days.