The Daily Herald reports that Dutch Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK. Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk responded in a letter to the Second Chamber on Tuesday, that there was no wrongfulness regarding 270 million euros and that the “uncertainty” as a result of “administrative errors and incompleteness in documents” was eliminated. According to Plasterk, SONA took action to fine-tune the legal expenditure of the funds. Plasterk explained that the Auditdienst Rijk, in June this year, carried out an investigation into the state of affairs involving the implementation of improvement measures at SONA on the request of the Ministry of BZK. The Auditdienst found that the improvement measures had been implemented and that SONA’s annual 2012 annual report was in order. “That is why we advise BZK to give SONA a discharge on 2012 regarding the BZK funds,” the Auditdienst stated. The Auditdienst never advised the BZK Ministry to cease subsidy to SONA.
The Algemeen Dagblad further reported that on St. Maarten the local Public Prosecutor’s Office suspected a couple of having committed fraud, money laundering and embezzlement of about one million euro in subsidies. Two other persons were sentenced for defrauding some 170,000 euros from SONA. However, St. Maarten Solicitor General Taco Stein told The Daily Herald on Tuesday, that the Prosecutor’s Office was “at a loss” about the case of the one million euros as to his knowledge there is no such investigation pending. The case in which two people were sentenced is related to money defrauded from I Can Foundation foster home.
Plasterk responded to questions posed by the Algemeen Dagblad. These were made public on Tuesday evening, after the publication of the front page article. The minister stated that he was aware of the fraud cases in St. Maarten. “In two cases, the Public Prosecutor’s Office took action in which one of the cases led to a sentencing by the court. The other criminal investigation is still ongoing.” In his separate letter to the Second Chamber, Plasterk stated that he assumed the SONA board would continue to handle cases of suspected fraud.
The Algemeen Dagblad further questioned the role of current National Government Representative (Rijksvertegenwoordiger) of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba Wilbert Stolte, who was Treasurer of SONA between 2008 and 2011. Member of the Second Chamber Fritsma on Tuesday, demanded immediate action from Plasterk to dismiss Stolte at once from his current position. In written questions submitted to Plasterk, Fritsma wanted to know why Stolte was appointed National Government Representative in May 2011, “when it was already known that the subsidies administration was a mess during his tenure as Treasurer.” Fritsma also asked clarity about why the “subsidy flow” from The Netherlands to the Dutch Caribbean remained intact while the Dutch General Audit Chamber and the Audit Service of the Dutch Government in the past had already warned against misuse of SONA funds. The Member of Parliament (MP) saw the recent reports as yet again a reason to “close the subsidy flow” and to get rid of the Dutch Caribbean, to which he referred to as a “bottomless pit,” an expression that the PVV often uses for the islands. “Why are millions of Dutch tax money still sent to the former Netherlands Antilles in the form of subsidies while the islands are expected to arrange their own affairs,” asked Fritsma, who urged the minister to reclaim the subsidies to SONA which cannot be accounted for by the foundation.
In his letter to the Algemeen Dagblad, which was also sent to the Second Chamber, Plasterk also referred to the position of the National Government Representative. He said he saw no reason to put the position of (former) SONA board members up for discussion. “I assume that the board always handled to the best of knowledge and belief,” he stated. As for his personal opinion at the time of Stolte’s appointment early May 2011, Plasterk remarked that he was not Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations at that time. He added that this fact did not take away his ministerial responsibility, but that the question on his personal opinion at the time of Stolte’s appointment was irrelevant.