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Soualiga Newsday Focus (1427)

100 neglected dogs rescued from breeder, found in filthy conditions

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Around 100 dogs have been confiscated from a breeder in Deventer after they were found in a severely neglected state. 

The dogs, ranging from Rhodesian ridgebacks to Jack Russell terriers had untreated wounds, hip problems and matted coats and some were found to be suffering from parasites. 

They were living in filthy conditions. The dogs also showed serious signs of stress and were afraid of humans. While efforts will be made to resocialise the dogs and find them new homes, in a worst-case scenario, a dog may have such severe problems that it may have to be put down, animal protection group Dierenbescherming said. 

The raid followed a visit to the breeder by animal protection inspectors on February 22. That in itself was a follow-up inspection to one carried out last July when the owner was ordered to take steps to improve conditions. 

The inspectors will go to court next week to request the owner be banned from breeding or owning dogs for life.  (DutchNews)

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Russian money laundering machine shifted millions through the Netherlands

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A money laundering operation which moved billions of euros out of Russia shifted part of the cash through the Netherlands, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project said on Monday. 

In total, almost €1bn of the money ended up in the Netherlands, some of which was used to buy two luxury yachts, said the research project, which includes Trouw and the Groene Amsterdammer magazine plus Dutch investigative journalism collective Investico. 

The OCCRP says Troika Dialog, once Russia’s largest private investment bank, channeled billions of dollars out of Russia from 2004 via a network of 70 offshore companies with accounts in Lithuania. 

The two Lithuanian banks were closed down in 2011 and 2013. The scheme was discovered in a collection of 1.3 million banking transactions and other documents obtained by OCCRP and the Lithuanian news site 15min.lt, which stem from the two Lithuanian banks. 

Some of the money was channeled into the Netherlands via the Amsterdam Trade Bank (ATB) and Turkey’s GarantiBank. ATB, part of Russia’s Alfa Bank, is already involved in corruption investigations. 

Smaller amounts were moved through ING and ABN Amro, the Groene Amsterdammer said. ‘The million-euro payments came from the Troika Bank and had many signs of money laundering,’ the magazine said. 

In addition, €43m went to the Rabobank account of luxury yacht builder Heesen, according to Dutch investigative news collective Investico. ‘How could all this happen under the watchful eye of the central bank DNB?’ the magazine asked. 

‘Banks are banned from carrying out transactions if they don’t know who profits, but, the central bank says, banks often have no idea who is really hiding behind anonymous companies.’ 

The central bank declined to answer specific questions about the claims, the Groene Amsterdammer said.(DutchNews)

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Freelancers more likely than regular employees to earn poverty wages

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – An increasing number of the self-employed risk ending up living below the poverty line, the national statistics office CBS said on Tuesday. 

The CBS considers someone is at risk of living in poverty if they earn less than €1,040 after tax as a single person, or €1,960 for a family with two children. In 2013 some 250,000 working people were in such a position and that total had declined in the years up to 2017. 

But in 2017, the last year for which the CBS has figures, the number of freelancers with a very low income was rising again. In 2017, 1.6% of people with a permanent contract were on a very low income, down from 2.3% in 2013. 

The freelance poverty rate, which had fallen from 10.6% to 8.1%, rose again in 2017 to 8.6%, the CBS said. ‘Freelance income is always a little more precarious than that of people in traditional jobs because the number of jobs they get fluctuates,’ CBS chief economist Peter Hein van Mulligen told broadcaster NOS. 

‘However, freelancer usually benefit more from economic growth than people in regular jobs. That effect would now appear to be over.’  (DutchNews)

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Police raid 30 officially empty apartments in The Hague, three men arrested

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Police in The Hague have raided at least 30 homes and arrested three people in a major investigation into criminal networks and housing fraud. 

In many cases no-one was registered as living in the apartments which, police say, is a sign that the occupants are living under the radar. Most of the properties are in the Ypenburg area of the city. 

Finance ministry investigators and council officials were also involved in the raids, as were dogs trained to sniff out dogs and money, police say. According to broadcaster NOS, the raids centred on six apartment blocks in Ypenburg and 200 police and other officials took part. 

The three men who were arrested come from Zoetermeer, Nootdorp and Rijkswijk and acted as letting agents for the owners of the properties. They are suspected of involvement in money laundering. 

There will be a news conference later on Tuesday when police will give more details about the raids and the results.(DutchNews)

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T.H. Detention Extended by Eight Days. To be Moved to Bonaire

SINT MAARTEN/BONAIRE - The Judge of Instruction ruled today to keep T.H. in pre-trial detention for an additional eight days the Anti Taskforce for Corruption said on Friday.

“T.H. will undergo his pre-trial detention in the Judicial Institution Caribbean Netherlands JICN on Bonaire. This decision has been made based on the fact that the Point Blanche Prison has reached its maximum capacity of 70 and remaining detained at the Philipsburg police headquarters is not an option.

“The Public Prosecutor’s Office issued a new policy regarding the detention ofinmates. This was also communicated to the general public. This policy aims to safeguard the proper adherence to basic human rights standards. 

“As a consequence, a suspect can only remain at the Philipsburg police headquarters for a maximum of 10 days. Minors may not be detained for longer than 3 days, regardless of the crime.

“The maximum capacity in the Point Blanche Prison has been set at 70 inmates and Prosecutors frequently scrutinize detention conditions. The Public Prosecutor’s Office had to release 3 prisoners last Friday, because overpopulation led to human rights violations. These 3 prisoners had already served most of their prison time and were set to be released in March.

“The Public Prosecutor’s Office expects the capacity issues in Point Blanche to deteriorate further in the coming weeks, as Curaçao has announced it will be sending 7 prisoners back to Sint Maarten. While the situation at the Point Blanche Prison is not ideal for any prisoner, a differentiation is made between individuals with an irrevocable conviction and those in pre-trial detention. 

“T.H. was held in pre-trial detention at the Philipsburg police headquarters in interest of the ongoing investigation.

“The Public Prosecutor has concluded that T.H. cannot stay longer at the police station as it would violate the human right to humane detention. Therefore, as a solution, T.H. will be housed in Bonaire, which was the closest facility to Sint Maarten with sufficient capacity. This is a temporary solution,” the OM statement concludes.

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Minister Johnson congratulates Topper’s Rhum Distillery as 1st place in 10 Best Caribbean Rum Distillery Contest

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – Minister of Tourism & Economic Affairs Stuart Johnson extends congratulations to the management and staff of St. Maarten’s Topper’s Rhum Distillery after placement of 1stplace in the USA Today 10 Best Caribbean Rum Distillery contest competition.

The prestigious competition is amongst some of the most famous rum brands in the world such as Bacardi, Brugal, Angostura, Cruzan, Mount Gay, Appleton Estate and Barbancourt.

“When a local rhum reaches the international arena, you have to recognize those involved for their persistence, dedication, and determination.  

“A Sint Maarten rhum is a promotional tool for the destination when it comes to name recognition.  It is also a product that visitors can take back home to their as something to remember, but at the same time, they can promote the island to their friends as ‘word of mouth’ promotion when talking about and offering friends and family a glass of Topper’s Rhum.

“The Topper’s Rhum Distillery is already promoted as one of the top unique places to visit while vacationing on the island.

“To the management and staff of Topper’s Rhum Distillery, keep up the good work, as the recognition you have received from USA Today is well deserved,” Minister of Tourism & Economic Affairs Stuart Johnson said on Thursday.

USA TODAY’s 10Best.com, provides travelers with original, unbiased, and experiential travel content around the world. At its core is a team of well-traveled and well-educated experts who in their fields are known for their discriminating tastes.

Topper’s Rhum, is handmade, bottled, and packaged in Cole Bay, St. Maarten. According to information, Topper’s Rhum only uses all-natural premium ingredients and no preservatives. 

Topper’s Rhum is found in reusable swing-top bottles and is currently exported to seven countries and 23 states in the USA. 

Topper’s Rhum has already won 24 international medals from the most prominent rum tasting contests in the world.

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Ministry VSA will host construction sector stakeholder meeting on March 19

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The Ministry of VSA is inviting all companies in the construction sector on Sint Maarten to attend a stakeholder meeting on Tuesday, March 19th at 4 pm at the Government Building. 

The meeting is intended for all persons doing business in the construction sector; owners/managers of construction companies, building supply companies etc. Topics that will be discussed are the current state of affairs of the reconstruction process on the island, anticipated need for local labor, the incidental work permit procedure, tender opportunities, Government compliance issues and more. Interested persons can contact the Cabinet of the Ministry of VSA via telephone number 5202767.

Minister Emil Lee stated: “We want to get feedback on how they see the reconstruction process going, the challenges they are finding with Government in terms of bottlenecks, and what can we as Government do to streamline that process.”

Earlier this month Minister Lee stated that the policy for incidental work permits would be evaluated, as there are implications that construction work would be slowing down in the coming period. 

Minister Lee indicated on Wednesday that the meeting would provide an opportunity to explain to the construction sector what are some of the upcoming tender projects via the World Bank Trust Fund. 

“What we see is that the local participation isn’t as robust as we would like it to be. We would explain how the process works but also look to get feedback on this. Is the process inviting? Too complicated?”

The participation of SZV to give information on compliance and expectations in relation to the construction sector will be confirmed at a later date. Minister Lee expressed that he would also like to hear feedback from the construction sector on their experience with the SZV procedures. 

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Monument Council Officially Established

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - Honourable Wycliffe Smith, Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport (ECYS) met with the newly established Monument Council to briefly discuss their appointment by law and associated duties last Wednesday. 

The Council consists of Chairman, Mr. Patrice Gumbs, Senior Policy Advisor at Foreign Affairs within General Affairs, Mr. Alfonso Blijden, Archives and Application Manager within General Affairs, Ms. Marla Chemont, Marketing Officer at the Tourism Bureau within TEATT, Ms. Natasha Richardson, and Educator and Monument Owner Ms. Emmalexis Velasquez. 

The positions of Secretary and Treasurer of the Council will be selected during the Council’s first meeting as an advisory body. The Monument Council is appointed for a period of four years and is responsible for liaising with the Department of Culture to oversee the issuing of monument permits, preparing work concerning heritage conservation and advising the Minister of ECYS. 

Included in the meeting was head of the Department of Culture, Clara Reyes. The Monument Council solicits advice based on the Monument Ordinance and other pieces of legislation that aim to protect Sint Maarten’s tangible heritage.   

The Parliament of Sint Maarten had approved the list of Council members as was recommended by the previous Minister of ECYS. However, Minister Smith thought it prudent not to appoint his own son, Mr. Donovan Smith, to the Council based on principles of good governance and integrity.

For further information on the Monument Council of St. Maarten, kindly contact the Department of Culture via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Dutch state buys stake in Air France-KLM to ‘increase influence’

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch state has bought a large minority shareholding in the holding company of Air France-KLM in order to exercise more influence on the company, finance minister Wopke Hoekstra told a news conference on Tuesday evening. In total, the Netherlands has bought 12.68% of the company for €680m on the open market but plans to raise this to 14% – in line with the stake held by the French government. The aim, Hoekstra says, is to better guarantee Dutch public interests. ‘The position of Schiphol and KLM are of great importance to the Dutch economy and employment,’ he said. ‘It involves thousands of direct and indirect jobs.’ In addition, KLM’s destination network is one reason so many foreign firms decide to relocate to the Netherlands, he said. The Dutch move, which apparently was not shared with the French authorities ahead of time, follows a turbulent period for the company. Holding chief Ben Smith is known to be keen to see Air France and KLM unify through common aircraft orders, alliances and flight programmes but the plans have caused unease in the Netherlands. ‘Over the past few years it has become obvious that important decisions about KLM strategy are being taken at a holding level,’ Hoekstra said on Tuesday evening. ‘At the same time, talks about strengthening existing agreements… and the make-up of the board, have been difficult.’ KLM also reports better financial results compared to Air France, which has been hit by strikes, even though it is much smaller. France French economic affairs minister Bruno Le Maire told Les Echoes that the shares had been bought up without prior knowledge of the Air France-KLM board or the French government. The French government has a 14.3% stake in the holding, which was created in 2003 when the two airlines merged. The Dutch state retains a 5.9% stake in KLM itself. ‘The big question is, what will you achieve with this,’ aviation economist Eric Pels told broadcaster NOS. ‘It cost a lot of money, you don’t have a majority and you can’t sit in the chief executive’s seat. Operational decisions, the day to day affairs, are not taken together with shareholders.’ (DutchNews)
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Independence and the Price of Freedom

SINT MAARTEN COMMENTARY (By Dr. Rhoda Arrindell) - Just the other day, I asked some folks in a gathering if they were happy with the way things are taking place on our island, and, like me, they are not happy. When I asked if what they intended to do about it, the response was tepid. That was a warning bell to me and even more reason to fear the direction our island nation is headed. A few years ago, when he visited the St. Martin Book Fair, the young professor MK Asante left a message with the audience: “If you have an observation, you have an obligation.”

The then 26-year-old reminded us that we cannot remain silent and complicit when we notice injustice taking place in our community. I understand why some people choose to remain silent out of fear of being targeted by the powers that be. Many of us who have dared to stand up to injustice and other ills over the years know all too well what the repercussions can be.

They can range from being disregarded for jobs and funding opportunities, economic boycott of your business, shady “investigations” of you and your family, to even death (Mr. Helmin Wiels being the most recent example). However, we also know that Freedom comes at a price, but it is a price that must be paid. Many St. Martiners will tell you that they know that Independence is the solution to St. Martiners taking full control of their destiny as a people, with all the ramifications thereof. Yet, just a few are prepared to make the necessary sacrifices for this to happen.

I’m not talking about the perceived material sacrifices that so many attribute to being a politically independent territory in this region. I am referring to sacrifices in terms of comfort zones and especially false notions of “power,” when in reality our people remain powerless in shaping our destiny. Colonialism—whether by the USA, Dutch, French, British, or whomever—is evil and unjust. No matter how it is dressed up or whatever euphemisms are used to conceal it, it always works to the detriment of the colonized people and their way of life.

The fact is St. Martin is a colony, and the contrived colonial domination that is currently taking place (on both sides of the island) is not in the interest of the St. Martin people, no matter what politicians tell you. At this point in our development, my dear St. Martiners, the right thing for all of us to do at this time, regardless of age, political colors, passports, etc. is to unite and take a strong stand against colonialism and the continued use of our island nation and people as pawns to satisfy an evil agenda.

We must do this not just for the common good today, but also in the interest of our children and future generations. We as St. Martiners, too, need to be honest with ourselves, that if we want our freedom and to preserve our island for the future generations, we must be willing to make sacrifices today, now. I am calling on all St. Martiners to talk to your representatives, on both sides of the island, and urge them to put down their campaigning weapons and get together to fight this evil noose of colonialism around our collective necks.

Those of us who know that independence is the way to save St. Martin cannot afford to sit idly by or remain complicit in the annihilation of our people and our values. For those aspiring to get into Heaven, know that you cannot get in there while you’re still alive. W. Somerset Maugham once said: “If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.” February 25, 2019

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