The Financial Intelligence Unit MOT for St. Maarten was opened by Finance Minister Ersilia de Lannooy at Plaza del Sol in Cole Bay Monday 6th July 2009 in the afternoon.
The MOT office is the first branch office of a Central Government department to open here based on an agreement signed by the Island and Central Governments in June. The agreement outlines the setting up of Central Government agencies and departments in St. Maarten that never existed here, or building up those that were just annexes such as the Bureau Telecommunication and Post.
Setting up of MOT operations is one of the infrastructural requirements St. Maarten must meet to attain country status by October 2010. This office is financed by the Central Government via the Ministry of Finance. Money for the continuation of the venture has been promised by Constitutional and Internal Affairs Minister Roland Duncan.
De Lannooy, who was here for the opening of a financial monitoring course, said she was happy to give her support to get the office going. The office is just an empty space that still needs personnel, furniture and equipment.
The symbolic opening was held Monday to highlight St. Maarten’s readiness to move forward and take up responsibilities of the Central Government with which it had never been charged in the past.
Constitutional Affairs Commissioner William Marlin said the opening was "a giant step forward with the infrastructural needs of Country St. Maarten. … We are making the right moves to fill in the blank spots."
Opening the MOT office and others that will come in the future sends a clear signal to critics, especially Dutch politicians, who have been hammering that St. Maarten is too small or not ready to become a country within the kingdom, Marlin said.
Pushing ahead with the infrastructural strengthening is a way of living up to the mandate given by St. Maarten’s people in the 2000 referendum to endure St, Maarten attains country status – not independence or public entity status, he added.
Some 150 unusual financial transactions were detected in St. Maarten in the past year, but were not handled sufficiently because MOT Antilles had to monitor and oversee all five islands of the Netherlands Antilles. This oversight will no longer exist when MOT St. Maarten is up and running, Marlin pointed out.
Justice Coordinator for St. Maarten Richard Gibson was praised by the minister and Marlin for his diligent efforts to get the MOT St. Maarten office off the ground. The fully staffed and equipped office is will be ready in the coming months.
MOT Antilles Head Kenneth Dambruck expressed satisfaction with the move and pledged his support for the continued setting up of the local office.
Constitutional Affairs Minister Roland Duncan, Economic Affairs Commissioner Frans Richardson and other justice officials were present for the soft opening of the office located across from Dolphin Casino.