BONAIRE--The Social Affairs and Employment Department SZW in the Caribbean Netherlands is investigating the misuse of support given to companies in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba related to the COVID-19 crisis. In at least seven cases the Prosecutor’s Office has initiated criminal proceedings.
These cases relate to both the SZW Emergency Regulation and the compensation provided by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy EZK, and occurred in all three islands of the Caribbean Netherlands. The first criminal hearings in these cases are expected to take place in May 2021.
The SZW Emergency Regulation and EZK Compensation were introduced at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis to support entrepreneurs in the Caribbean Netherlands in their wage and fixed cost. About 700 companies make use of the emergency regulations, which are implemented by the SZW unit of National Department Caribbean Netherlands RCN.
If there are signs of incorrect use of the regulations, RCN’s SZW unit will contact the applicant. If it turns out that the amount paid out is too high, this is settled or reclaimed in good consultation in many cases, RCN said Monday.
If incorrect information is deliberately provided or deliberately omitted, the criminal law will be applied. This applies, for example, to cases where employers receive support for wage cost and do not pay the amounts out to their employees, or when they receive support for workers they no longer employ.
The Prosecutor’s Office also intervenes in cases in which turnover figures have been reported that were far too high. For the time being, no settlements will be offered.
It was clear from the beginning that there was a risk of misuse of the regulations, RCN said. The COVID-19 support is provided on the basis of information provided by the applicant, who signs for having provided it truthfully. This method was chosen at the time so that affected companies could receive support as quickly as possible.
However, this system requires honest applicants. Companies must submit a change form when their situation has altered in comparison with the time of their application and report if they suspect that they have wrongly received compensation.