SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - In order to avoid further prosecution, the Public Prosecutor of the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Curacao, Sint Maarten and Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba (Public Prosecutor’s Office) has offered two former money transaction offices on Sint Maarten, Popular Express and Money Express, a settlement proposal. Money transaction offices are also referred to as money remitters.
These companies conducted – independently of each other – financial services without the required license from the Central Bank of Curaçao and Sint Maarten (CBCS). Both companies have accepted the settlement proposal.
Further to a number of signals received by the Public Prosecutor’s Office from the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), the Investigation and Cooperation Team (RST) together with the Anti-Corruption Team (TBO) of Public Prosecutor’s Office, conducted an investigation into the two money transfer services.
Through the criminal investigation it became clear that both money remitters provided financial services without the required authorization from CBCS. Moreover, on a number of occasions one of the money remitters did not report unusual transactions to the FIU, which is mandatory.
The financial services consisted of accepting cash money on Sint Maarten and, subsequently, making that money payable in cash, after deduction of commissions, to beneficiaries in the Dominican Republic.
During the searches carried out in December 2019, one of the money remitters, Money Express, had already stopped providing financial services. The other money transaction office, Popular Express, was still operational at the time of the search but ceased its business activities immediately after.
According to Article 2, section 1 of the National Ordinance on Supervision of Money Transfer Services, it is prohibited to operate a money transaction office without a license from CBCS.
Money transfer offices which operate without the relevant license are unfair competition for money remitters who do comply with legal obligations. In addition, these illegally operating transaction offices easily create money laundering vehicles for the proceeds of criminal activities. This is because the flow of money in the form of cash or cheque is difficult to follow and there is a high risk of non-compliance by unregulated money remitters with the legal obligation to carry out customer due diligence. This compromises the integrity of the financial system of Sint Maarten and Curaçao. It is therefore important that financial services are to a certain extent subject to government control. CBCS is the supervisory and licensing authority in respect ofsuch services.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office sees various grounds for an out-of-court settlement. First of all, both enterprises ceased their money remittance activities and fully cooperated with the criminal investigation.
Furthermore, in the opinion of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the standard for adequate enforcement in these two investigations should not be criminal prosecution but administrative intervention. For no clear reason such administrative intervention has not been effected throughout the past years. The circumstance that it could prevent both enterprises from obtaining the necessary permit in the event that they are convicted through criminal proceedings, as well played a role in the decision to engage in an out-of-court settlement.
As a result of this settlement, both enterprises will pay an amount of money to the country of Sint Maarten. Popular Express will pay an amount of NAf.75,000, Money Express will pay an amount of NAf.50,000. Both amounts are partly conditional. The respective amounts are based on a number of factors, such as the length of the period during which the illegal transfers were being carried out as well as the volume of financial services performed.
In addition, publication of this press release is part of the transaction.