Monday morning opened the trial of Daniel Gibbs, Valérie Damaseau and Annick Petrus in Saint-Martin. The three elected officials are accused of not having respected the rules of award public market; the president is also being prosecuted for embezzlement of public funds. Absent from the island, Annick Petrus obtained the dismissal of the case concerning her.
The hearing was suspended yesterday at noon after a day and a half of investigation of the cases and was to resume at 1:30 p.m. with the requisitions of the public prosecutor and the pleadings of the lawyers of the three defendants.
In general, Daniel Gibbs and to a lesser extent Valérie Damaseau in their capacity as president and vice president of the Collectivity are accused of having favored companies by awarding them contracts between 2017 and 2019. In total eleven companies – practically all of Saint-Martin – are concerned. Daniel Gibbs is also accused of embezzlement of public funds.
All of the charges, except one, were reported by the former prefect of Saint-Martin, Sylvie Feucher, to the public prosecutor who, each time, contacted the gendarmerie research section to conduct investigation.
The prefect’s reports were motivated by the same reason: non-compliance with the public procurement code. It manifested in many ways.
On the one hand by the endorsement by the executive council of a transactional protocol intended to make it possible to settle companies having provided a service or carried out work on behalf of the Collectivity. In 2018, the public accountant refused to honor several invoices because the amounts far exceeded the threshold of 25,000 euros, a threshold beyond which the COM is obliged to award a public contract. However, the services or works have been carried out and the companies are asking to be paid. The COM services and the accountant then proposed to sign a transactional protocol to regularize the situation, a situation which would be denounced.
On the other hand, the COM commissioned an expert of insured in the days which followed the passage of Irma for an amount of 250,000 euros without competition. In this case, the expert is also prosecuted for having collected the 250,000 euros when he was supposed to know that they had been paid outside the framework of a public contract. This case is the only one not to have been denounced by the prefect, it was the subject of an anonymous denunciation to the prosecutor of Basse Terre.
Finally, the last situation observed is that of a market of 5 million euros. In this case, a contract was signed in all legality but it was “riddled with irregularities”, the first being that after Irma’s passage it provided for work for 400 vulnerable people, or work for a private may be financed by public funds unless there is a compelling emergency justifying them. When the irregularity was raised, the sites were stopped and the COM services were forced to find a way (transactional protocol) to pay the companies.
Each contract was discussed in detail by the court, the examination of the files lasted a day and a half. Daniel Gibbs and Valérie Damaseau, who is only involved in one case, as well as the insured adjuster took the stand and answered questions from the magistrates and their lawyers. Yesterday, at noon, only the defendants had spoken.
The lawyers, Maître Petit (for Gibbs), Leborgne (for Damaseau) and Bensimhon (for the insured’s adjuster) pleaded on Tuesday afternoon after the prosecution’s indictment.
As he had indicated during the previous hearing in October, the court will deliberate on its judgment which it must render in February, before the start of the electoral campaign. (soualigapost.com)