THE BLACKLIST: CASE NUMBER P-2021/03104 – “The Ostrich”


“The Ostrich”



Raymond Reddington, the main character of the series Blacklist on Netflix,  would probably say something like:

Well, it seems our dear former Minister, and now senator Sevinger has found himself in a bit of a pickle, hasn’t he? The man couldn’t resist dipping his hand in the cookie jar one too many times, and now he’s facing the consequences. It’s a shame he had so much (or at least some) potential. But as they say, when you play with fire, you’re bound to get burned.”

He would probably say the same thing about Chief Justice Clarence Thomas from the SCOTUS, who appears to be no stranger to controversy. 

Why the pickle?

As for Sevingers predicament, let me give you a hint. Sevinger was charged with passive official bribery and embezzlement – two offenses which will certainly not earn them any badge of honor from Boy Scouts. Evidence collected during the investigation in the case codenamed “Avestruz” (English for “Ostrich”) led to his conviction and sentencing to 12 months in jail, of which six months are conditional. Sevinger was also stripped of his right to hold public office for five years as a civil servant and an elected member of any representative public body. All this because the Court of First Instance of Aruba found that he had received bribes and engaged in illicit activities, an action which severely compromised our public institutions.

The conviction is 50 pages.

This conviction was handed down on April 14th, 2023.  The decision is a 50-page document and is certainly not an easy read which is why I suspect that the convicted former minister/current senator, his supporters in the media, spin doctors, and the leadership of Mike Eman and the AVP political party were quick to dismiss and play down the content of the verdict due to some acquittals of some charges and move on to business as usual. 

Business as usual?

Well, not entirely business as usual as it appears that the proverbial light bulb has finally flickered to life in the heads of some of the party members. Or perhaps they stumbled upon a conscience like a penny on the sidewalk. Either way, it’s about time they started doing the right thing and condoned that a convicted criminal should not sit in the parliament or run for office.

The why?

Sevinger’s conviction came about due to a series of incidents in which he was accused of accepting bribes. The court had determined that he had known or should have known that the gifts he had received were intended to influence him to act against his duty as a public official. The court had emphasized that the definition of “gift” was broad and included anything of value given to an individual. The court had found Sevinger guilty of accepting Afl. 132,500 via a foundation called “Fundacion Curason Berde” in exchange for acting against his duty as a public official. 

He also received gifts such as a fence for his yard and Vectra ® workout equipment to the tune of Afl. 33,345. 

Image: A sample Vectra gym equipment & sample elliptical 

To top it off, he was found guilty of embezzling Afl. 11,375.50 from the Fundacion Curazon Berde. Fundacion Curazon Berde, an organization he controlled and had complete access to during his time as a minister. He thought it was ok or normal for him to use funds donated to his foundation for personal use. One of his former ministers, colleagues of the same party, also committed that same transgression and has been convicted. If the prosecutor started an investigation on all fundraising foundations used by politicians, many more would get convicted.

Fundacion Curazon Berde

Like many other politicians, they create a foundation, give it a fancy inspirational name, appoint some loyal lackeys to the board, and use that to raise funds. While Benny was not on the board of the Foundation, according to the text of the sentencing, he was the one calling the shots and directing payments. So in the foundation, he was the master of puppets. I guess that he was the one ultimately directing monies inbound and also outbound.  There are many ways to fundraise. Monies can come in bits and (very) tiny pieces if you organize a bingo or sell some BBQ tickets, but when you are in power, you can attract more significant donations. According to the judgment in Sevinger’s case (some of), big money came in from two businessmen or their companies who “donated” each Afl. 40,000 and Afl. 92,500. Well, well, well, it looks like Benny hit the jackpot with all these generous donations. I suppose it’s not surprising that folks would be willing to make such sizeable donations. After all, who wouldn’t want to buy their personal puppet show? 

Puppet show

Sevinger’s position as minister of Infrastructure gave him the power to issue commercial long leases on land and make land development decisions. The court had found that during the same periods that these generous donations were made, Harms, Sussebeek, and Pristine Estates NV (Lowenstein) had submitted requests to obtain or modify long leases, which their good pal Benny had the power to approve. Not much of a  surprise here. According to the court, it was clear that the donations and gifts were intended to influence Sevinger’s decision-making and that they were made with the understanding that he would act against his duty as a public official. The court had noted that Sevinger’s actions – accepting over Afl. 160,000 in bribes – had compromised his objectivity and independence, which were critical to his role as a public official.



Let’s try to put these amounts in perspective. The salary of a minister is Afl. 15,010 per month, excluding a host of allowances and other perks. Still, when Benny was minister, he had a yearly base salary of Afl.180,120. It would almost seem that old Benny collected enough bribes to earn almost a full year of salary. Perhaps a sign that we are “grossly underpaying” our politicians. Also, perhaps a sign that there could have been more money changing hands, especially revolving around Sasaki, Eagle Beach, and Palm Beach, but we may find out about those.

What went wrong?

The court examined each case of the various suspects separately and found that the gifts were given to influence Benny’s decisions and actions as a public official. In the case of Pristine Estates NV, it was discovered that the company had issued four cheques worth AWG. 10,000 each to Fundacion Curazon Berde. Imagine the coincidence when shortly after that, Sevinger granted their request regarding amending an existing long lease. The court had concluded that there was a clear link between the donation and Sevinger’s actions. In the case of Harms, it was found that he or his associated companies had donated AWG. 92,500 to Fundacion Curazon Berde. The court had found that the donations and the lease requests were made around the same time, indicating a clear attempt to influence Sevinger’s decisions. Finally, in the case of Sussebeek, it was established that Sevinger had accepted gifts from him, including a fence for his yard worth US$ 8,000 and almost US$ 12,000 for some fancy gym equipment. Sevinger claimed to have repaid the money, but the court found his testimony unbelievable. Wonder how many other persons or businesses made similar donations?

Biggest loser

The biggest loser (so far), in his case, seems to be Peter Sussebeek. In a separate decision, the court found him guilty of active bribery and forfeited over One Million U.S. Dollars embargoed on one of his bank accounts.  He was also given a lot more jail time than his buddy Benny.

The view of court

The Court of First Instance of Aruba ruled that Sevinger’s actions resulted in a loss of trust in the government and its officials. The court had found evidence that Benny had accepted gifts to the tune of a whopping Afl. 165,844.50, almost US$ 100,000, with the understanding that he would act against his duty as a public official. This case has highlighted the importance of transparency and integrity in government and has sent a strong message that those who betrayed the public trust will be brought to justice.


Ah, my dear friend. Both the prosecution and Benny Boy are not satisfied with the verdict. They have appealed the decision, and now this case will take a brief detour through the Appellate Court before most likely making its way to the highest court in the Kingdom – the Supreme Court. As you know, a sentence reduction or a complete acquittal is the best possible outcome for a suspect. But let us not forget the unpleasant possibility of being convicted on additional charges and receiving even more time behind bars. Whatever the outcome is, we’ll have to wait two to three years to see how this cookie crumbles. 

If you want to read the whole judgment, click here


Share on social media