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Maragnes family clings to hope missing son is alive

MARIGOT--The family of the missing young man Manoël Maragnes has spoken of the anguish they are still going through on the first anniversary of their son's disappearance last year but still retain hope that he will turn up.

"This will be a year since Manoël disappeared during the night of December 13 to 14, 2013, after a car accident. Since then we have heard nothing more, as if he vanished into thin air," the family said in a statement. "There are so many questions still unanswered; what really happened? Did he want to disappear? Was he a victim of a bad encounter with someone?

"We are still shocked by his disappearance. He finished his studies and came to St. Martin from Paris for a university project. There was no indication anything was wrong; he was on very good terms with us and his sister. He was going to be with us for Christmas and New Year in Guadeloupe. Why would he come to St. Martin to run away? It does not make any sense."

The family said it is difficult to determine how the investigation into his disappearance is going or if there is any progress. The case was passed from the Prosecutor to the Judge of Instruction in January. The Prosecutor and Gendarmerie have been investigating all possibilities and scenarios.

"The investigation continues but too slowly we feel," the family added. "There have been vague posts on his Facebook page that the investigation can't clarify and doubt on how seriously to take what has been written. We continue to think he is alive somewhere. We can only depend on the work of the investigators, but also on the public. Someone may recognize Manoel even if his physical appearance has changed a little (hair, beard.). If so, do not hesitate to report any sighting to the Gendarmerie (emergency number 17) or to the family directly on (0690) 84. 25. 45 or (0690) 28. 33. 88.

To recap, Manoël Maragnes (then 24) and originally from Guadeloupe arrived in St. Maarten on December 11, 2013, on a flight from New York. He was in the process of completing a Business Administration degree in Paris, for which he had done a project in St. Martin. He was due to graduate in January and was on his way to spend Christmas and New Year's Eve with relatives in Guadeloupe.

En route from Paris to Guadeloupe, he first stopped off for a few days in New York, where he saw friends. He then continued to St. Maarten on December 10 where he planned to do some field studies as part of his project, and on Saturday, December 14, was due to fly from Grand Case to Guadeloupe. His family was present at the airport to meet him, but he never made it onto the flight.

Manoël had been staying in Beach Plaza Hotel in Marigot. He never checked out. On Saturday, all his belongings, including his passport, were found inside the hotel room. A rental car driven by Maragnes was found abandoned in the Lowlands area, with slight damage to one side of the vehicle.

More allegations against suspended police officer

PHILIPSBURG--An investigation into police officer A.v.H., who was alleged to have subjected an ex-partner to a serious domestic-related assault, has now been extended after new allegations were made against the officer.

Spokeswoman for the Prosecutor’s Office Tineke Kamps confirmed this to The Daily Herald on Friday. The report into the initial allegations had just been completed, but had not yet been assessed by the Prosecutor’s Office to determine if the police officer would be prosecuted.

A.v.H. remains suspended on full pay until such time that he is either convicted or acquitted. If he is acquitted, he could still be subject to an internal police investigation to see if he has committed any misconduct offences, for which he can be disciplined within the organisation.

Harbour: Investment in crane in interest of shareholder, economy

page1a175sPOINTE BLANCHE--The audited financial statements for St. Maarten Harbour Group of Companies produced by PricewaterhouseCoopers are part of the annual reporting that the government-owned company has to present in good order to the shareholder, which is the Government of St. Maarten, and are "part and parcel of good corporate governance," according to a statement from the Harbour Group issued Friday after the group's financial statements were leaked to the press.

"I have taken note of a story in the print media with respect to the purchase of cranes for Port St. Maarten. The way some stories have been written seems to want to discredit the Harbour Group of Companies and suggest that something is amiss. This is very unfortunate, as our strategic partners also read these baseless stories," said Harbour Group Chief Executive Officer Mark Mingo on Friday.

"The Harbour Group of Companies has a responsibility towards its shareholder. We live up to our corporate responsibilities. At the same time, we have to look at the interests of our partners who we have strategic agreements with. The supervisory board and management have to live up to non-disclosure agreements and protect the intellectual property of the Harbour Group.

"The Harbour Group has been transparent with the shareholder. There is an open line of communication. If there are those who feel that the current structure needs to be changed for whatever reasons, then let's have that discussion. The Harbour Group, as an NV company with a concession on behalf of the shareholder, has commercial interests and must protect those interests on behalf of its shareholder and take the necessary risks where necessary in line with responsible corporate decision-making."

Second Crane

Two cranes are required for the cargo operations to be executed in an optimal fashion. The acquisition of a second crane was to bring cargo operations up to par, close to international operating standards. The crane operation at the port employs 10 local certified operators and supervisors.

St. Maarten Crane Corporation purchased a crane, HMK 260 E, in 2002. A resolution was passed by the St. Maarten Harbour Holding Company Supervisory Board in May 2009.

"The purchase of the crane was based on the deplorable service at that time being rendered. There were only seven container movements per hour and after the harbour group purchased this crane and another one, this more than doubled to 18 moves per hour, while the international average is 25," Mingo said.

A second crane was purchased based on Port St. Maarten's strategic port development plan to increase cargo operations. St. Maarten is a hub in the Northeastern Caribbean – a transit port – especially for Saba and St. Eustatius.

"The purchase of the crane five years ago was based on meeting the cargo needs and requirements of modern day St. Maarten. At that time compared to 2002, cargo ships have more than doubled in size and carry more containers. Investments were also made in the expansion of our cargo facility in order to accommodate these international trends and developments," Mingo said.

The cost of one crane for US $1.4 million and the second one for 2.585 euros, based on the exchange rate at that time of approximately 1.36 euros, comes out to more than US $3.4 million. The second crane is "top of the line" with all the latest features based on five years ago.

"The difference in the price is clear and legitimate when you look at the currency exchange rate and also the crane being the latest model and more modern than the old one. There is no issue here, but common sense," Mingo said.

He explained that if the Harbour Group had not made the necessary investments in equipment and infrastructure, it would have had an impact on the cost of living for consumers. Ships would have to remain in port longer, resulting in more fees being paid by the cargo line, which then would be translated into higher shipping cost. These different factors have to be taken into consideration.

"In every link there is an effect and we looked at that carefully and properly planned our strategic investments accordingly, taking the small factors into consideration, so it does not impact the cost of living and the cost of doing business on the island.

"Another aspect that must be looked at is the provisioning of cruise ships, and the investments in equipment and infrastructure go hand in hand with cruise, as I pointed out, the links and chain of business activity. One has to look at the entire picture and not just take out little things to create something where there is nothing," Mingo explained.


With respect to the funding provided offshore and the interests rates: "Firstly, interest rates back in 2009 were around eight and nine per cent. Today, things are different, where you can get a loan at lower interest," Mingo said.

"Funding offshore, we are a commercial company under the law and we look out for the best interests of the shareholder. Our tax advisor advised us about Octavio Holdings Inc.

"According to the resolution authorizing the purchase of the crane, it says, securing the financing of the new Mobile Crane with local financiers WIB and RBTT, and despite their respective firm offers, it turned out that those financiers were only allowed by their credit committees to grant this loan facility based on a parent guarantee of not only St. Maarten Ports Authority, but as well from the Harbour Holding Company."

Also, the financing from Gottwald, the crane company, was reviewed, but the overall terms and conditions were not favourable and a parent guarantee from Harbour Holding also was required. A third party financier, Octavio Holdings S.A. Panama, was willing to provide a loan without the guarantee of Harbour Holding.

The terms and conditions of this loan are more or less in line with the conditions of the local financiers. However, the interest is a little higher (eight instead of seven per cent, which was acceptable, as the lender was accepting less securities and collateral and was willing to finance up to 100 per cent of the acquisition price, whilst the local financiers only wanted to finance 80 per cent. Furthermore, the interest was fixed for the term of the loan, whilst the local financiers were willing to fix the interest only for a period up to three years.

Mingo said, "I would like to reiterate that investments in equipment and infrastructure are made based on our strategic plan that is approved by the Supervisory Board and shareholder. We don't pick things out of the sky at a whim, we plan ahead and that is why we have been so successful and are ahead of the competition."

Man escapes unhurt after intruder’s gun jammed

BELVEDERE--An armed intruder attempted to shoot Elston Fos (54) at his home around 9:00pm late Friday night, reports indicated.

The police control room received a call stating that someone had been waiting at Fos' home, which is understood to be in Belvedere, for Fos to come home. When he arrived, the suspect attempted to shoot him, but the firearm jammed and Fos escaped with his life.

Police spokesman Inspector Ricardo Henson said he was aware the call had been made and that detectives were investigating the incident. He said he had no further information, as he had not yet received an update from the detectives.

Prosecutor's Office spokeswoman Tineke Kamps, who was the prosecutor on duty Friday night, said she was unaware of the incident and that she had not been informed.

Fos, who was born in Curaçao, used to be the president of the Belvedere Home Owners and Tenants Association board. He was sentenced to six years in prison in the Netherlands in 1996 when he was accused of stabbing his daughter's aunt's boyfriend to death. Fos had stabbed the man after confronting him for raping Fos' 13-year-old daughter. He was granted temporary leave from prison in 1999, after which he failed to return.

He was found in St. Maarten in 2012 and returned to the Netherlands. Fos had been working for the St. Maarten Government before his arrest.

Evaluation Committee, islands discuss next step

THE HAGUE--The Caribbean Netherlands Evaluation Committee on Friday informed representatives of the governments of Bonaire, St. Eustatius, Saba and the Netherlands, the principals in this exercise, how it will go about the research for the 2015 constitutional evaluation.

Commissioners Reginald Zaandam of St. Eustatius, Chris Johnson of Saba and Edsel Winklaar of Bonaire attended Friday's meeting, as well as the Secretary General of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Richard van Zwol. Present on behalf of the committee were chairperson Liesbeth Spies and members Glenn Thodé, Fred Soons and Luc Verhey.

The meeting served to start the research phase by the independent evaluation committee. During this period, from December 2014 until April 2015, existing research, evaluations, policy programmes and inspection reports will be analysed, followed by additional research in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba in April and May. This will be done through interviews and questionnaires with the assistance of sub-committees and outside researchers.

The final report, which has to be submitted latest October 10, 2010, exactly five years after the new constitutional relations went into effect, will contain conclusions, but not recommendations, Spies told the media after Friday's two-hour meeting.

It will be up for the representatives of the islands and the Netherlands to take the actual decisions as a result of the evaluation. The evaluation will concentrate on three subjects: the workings of legislation, the workings of the governmental structure and the consequences of the 2010 transition for the people of the islands.

Three major subjects that are of great importance to the three islands, said the three Commissioners. Commissioner Zaandam said the aspect of fiscal laws and the level of facilities (voorzieningenniveau) was especially important for St. Eustatius. He pointed out that equality was an important factor in the Dutch Constitution, although he felt that an exception was made for the islands where it came to this.

Commissioner Johnson said the social economic factors and the burden of legislation and regulations were key for Saba in the evaluation. "We are overregulated and overburdened with legislation and regulations that are not suitable and unnecessary for a small island like ours. We want common sense to rule in this," he said. He compared the situation to the story of David and Goliath.

Zaandam added that The Hague at times missed the point that the islands' resources are limited, also where it concerns human resources to carry out the new laws and regulations. He lauded Secretary General Van Zwol for showing understanding for this aspect. "We have a heavy hitter on our side," he said. Zaandam said he was sure that the evaluation committee would dedicate sufficient attention to this aspect.

Commissioner Winklaar said the expectations of the Bonaire people were very high in the area of social security. He said communication in the evaluation process was of essential importance. Zaandam said that in this sense the meeting with the committee on Friday was instrumental. "We were able to clarify things from our side, because we can't have miscommunication. We all have to be clear on this and know exactly what we can expect," he said.

The three Commissioners agreed that it was important to address the small size of the islands in the evaluation, to take the local situation and the specific needs into account. "At the end of the day it is about our social economic development, it is about the people, the families, their life and future," said Johnson.

Spies confirmed that the terms of reference of the Evaluation Committee specifically states that the differences between the three islands have to be addressed. She said the report will detail as many practical examples of the things that are happening on the islands as possible so it turns out to be a comprehensible, realistic document.

The committee hopes to receive input from the residents of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. "We want to involve the people. We hope that they will cooperate by sharing information with the researchers and the committee." A special website and Facebook page will be launched early January for this purpose where, as Spies put it, "people can take and supply information."

Van Zwol said the evaluation was an "exhilarating" exercise because it was the first time that this kind of constitutional structure, the public entity status, was used in the Kingdom "in the hope and conviction that this would benefit the people."

Whether the structure has been successful or not can only be determined after the evaluation, said Van Zwol, who added that much work was still in progress. He said that The Hague was becoming "increasingly aware that it wasn't so easy to do everything right."

Van Zwol stressed that the evaluation would not be a "paper exercise." "We are doing this together with the assistance of a professional, independent committee with broad experience. These are five heavy hitters," he said.

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