PHILIPSBURG--Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure Egbert Doran (National Alliance) called the October 7 convocation in the newspaper to the heirs of the late Alfred Richardson and Imelda Richardson-Vernom to report to the liquidator of the estate of the late Alfred Richardson “factually incorrect”.
“This notice by the new presumed heir, as it pertains to ‘Over the Bank’, is factually incorrect. An article in the newspaper cannot and does not overrule multiple court judgments regardless as to how much the heirs would rather that to be the case,” Doran stated in a press release that was distributed on Wednesday.
Doran was referring to a paid advertisement representing a court order to liquidator Mylene Richardson to search worldwide for all heirs to Alfred Richardson to offer them the possibility to claim their inheritance if they wish to do so.
The official notice “Openbaarmaking: Vereffenaar en Rechtverkrijgenden Nalatenschap van Alfred Richardson en Imelda Richardson eigendomsgrond Over the Bank/Vineyards Lands Philipsburg St. Maarten” (Disclosure: Liquidator and Assignees Estate of Alfred Richardson and Imelda Richardson Property Land Over the Bank/Vineyards Lands Philipsburg St. Maarten) states, “The Richardson heirs were assessed by SXM ruling 201700071 Henson vs Land 11/16/2018 as the legal assignees and they are legally entitled to their inheritance for 20 years.”
Doran said: “In this article, reference was made to the judgment registered under SXM 201700071, which is the appeal case that the first complainant lost, as the basis for the new presumed heirs’ claim that they acquired legal ownership.”
The appeal from Henson vs Land 16-11-2018 was lost by Henson, who is the minister’s uncle, and who had filed several cases in Court in the past two decades unsuccessfully claiming land in the area Over the Bank/Vineyard which he had been illegally using for his cows and goats since the 1980s. After losing a 2007 case in Court, Henson proceeded to build rental properties in Vineyard, as he stated in appeal.
According to Henson, the hillside pasture belonged to Giles Martenborough, but, as the court found, proof was nowhere to be found. “This statement is not substantiated by him [Henson – Ed.]. It is unclear whether there is an entry in the Public Registers with regard to this Martenborough. Apparently not,” the verdict states.
Henson states in the appeal case that on plot 162/2014 measuring 80,500 square metres – of which the deed is in the name of Alfred Richardson and was passed on to his son Marius Donald Richardson at birth – he grazed cattle and goats for many decades and built two houses.
“Henson’s assertion that he had cattle and goats grazed on lot 162/2014 is, if correct, according to the general view in St. Maarten insufficient to assume possession,” the Court stated.
The conclusion is that with regard to all three pieces of land, covering a total area of 457,058m2, the Court of First Instance was right to have rejected Henson’s claims, the Court of Justice concluded.
In Wednesday’s press release, Doran refers to his uncle George Henson as “a presumed heir” and “the individual”. Doran wrote: “In March 2015, a claim was filed against Country St. Maarten by a presumed heir to the land. The individual who filed the complaint with the court (complainant) built on properties known under parcels 290/1984 and 162/2014.
“The individual (complainant) also requested the Court, if they agreed to award the properties as described to the individual (complainant), that country Sint Maarten would be ordered to cooperate with the transfer of ownership to the presumed heir of the land.
“The Court in First Instance denied the claim. The individual (complainant) lost multiple cases brought against country Sint Maarten over flawed claims of ownership in this regard. The presumed heir filed an appeal against the judgment of the case filed in March 2015 and lost that case as well. The properties known as ‘Over the Bank’ as previously described are the properties of country Sint Maarten.”
Although Henson lost the case he brought against country St. Maarten, the verdict does not state that country St. Maarten is the owner of the area Over The Bank/Vineyard Heights.
The Henson vs Land case is based on the assumption that there are no legal heirs. It was assumed that part of the land was owned by the late Ann Richardson. In the absence of heirs, the land would revert to country St. Maarten after three years.
However, the plots with certificates of measurement 290/1984 and 162/201 and the rest of the Over the Bank/Vineyard Heights area are in the name of Alfred Richardson, who was born in St. Maarten on November 15, 1887. The marine and tank builder left St. Maarten in 1927 to work at the oil refinery in Curaçao, opened in 1918 by the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company (later Shell).
Richardson’s son, Marinus Donald Richardson, became heir to Over the Bank/Vineyard Heights at birth. Marinus Richardson is the father of the liquidator of the estate, Mylene Richardson. In the meantime, the liquidator has tracked down 45 heirs on the instructions of the court and 40 of them have filed a claim to their share of the inheritance.
However, according to Minister Doran the heirs cannot claim the inheritance. Doran writes: “On November 9th, 2021, the new presumed heir placed another lengthy article in the newspaper. This time the critique was not only directed towards country St. Maarten, but quite some critique was levied at two notaries, the Cadaster, and the Ombudsman.
“The article mentioned that the Ombudsman stated that based on the court’s ruling, the ‘Over the Bank’ parcels belong to country St. Maarten. As we can recall, the Ombudsman also mentioned this a few days ago on the floor of Parliament.
“Therefore, it is not only country St. Maarten that has taken the position that the properties that are known as ‘Over the Bank’ belong to Country St. Maarten, but also several institutions, more than one notary, the Cadaster, the Ombudsman and, most importantly, the Court in First Instance and the Appeal Court have all identified that the lands belong to Country St. Maarten.”
Whereas Doran said the Appeal Court had identified the land as belonging to government, the verdict of the Appeal Court stated that as of April 1, 2014, a new regulation would be in force with the entry into force of the new inheritance law in St. Maarten. Art. 4:204 states: If an estate has not been accepted under the privilege of inventory, the court of first instance may appoint a liquidator.
The appeal court’s judgment also refers to Art. 225: If not all heirs are known or there is uncertainty about this, a liquidator is obliged to trace the heirs by summonses in widely-read newspapers or by other efficient means.
The summons in The Daily Herald on October 7, made by liquidator Mylene Richardson, states that the heirs claim their share within the legal period of 20 years. As the judgment of Henson vs Land states: “If an asset of the estate has not been claimed by anyone within 20 years after the succession has been opened, then it will lapse to the Country [St. Maarten – Ed.].”
Country St. Maarten can claim Over the Bank/Vineyard Heights in the year 2038 at the earliest if the liquidation of the estate has not been completed by that time, said liquidator Richardson. “If the Minister ignores this legal process, and continues to issue our land, then the Minister, and therefore the country of St. Maarten, is liable. The heirs will hold the parties liable for damages suffered with recovery of what is legally due to us.”