Soualiga Newsday Focus

Soualiga Newsday Focus (895)

Dutch police break up major dark web drugs gang, four arrested

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Police in the Netherlands say they have broken up a gang which was trading large volumes of illegal drugs on the dark web all over the world.

The three men and one woman were arrested in Amsterdam and Werkendam earlier this week and will appear before remand judges on Friday. Three of those arrested were online processing orders at the time of their arrest.

The fourth was producing what the police said were packaging materials using 3D printers when she was picked up. The case is a follow up on the dismantling of a dark web drugs network known as Hansa last year, police said.

One of the seller accounts, named Doug Hefferman, was based in the Netherlands and appeared to be responsible for selling cocaine, ecstasy and other drugs.

The four people arrested on Tuesday are said to be the operators behind that name and a string of others which moved to a new dark web market place named Dream Market when Hansa was shut down.


They are suspected of sending tens of thousands of packets of drugs all over the world disguised as makeup, print cartridges and computer games. The related administration system includes the addresses of potentially thousands of buyers, the police statement said.

Police also confiscated three cars, a considerable amount of drugs, a gun and bitcoin receipts. Doug Hefferman is the main character from the American comedy The King of Queens who is a delivery worker. (DutchNews)


Minister welcomes investigation into teen suicide using ‘death powder’

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Health minister Hugo de Jonge has welcomed the public prosecution department’s decision to investigate the suicide of a 19-year-old woman using a powder bought on the internet.

The young woman from Brabant killed herself three weeks ago and the public prosecutor wants to know if a right to die cooperative which claims to distribute the ‘suicide powder’ was involved in supplying the drug.

De Jonge said the death is ‘extremely worrying’. The Last Will Cooperative is on the verge of operating irresponsibly and may be committing a criminal offence, he said. The girl’s parents told Trouw earlier this week that the powder should not be freely available.

‘It makes it very easy for someone to take such a step,’ the girl’s father said. The cooperative hit the headlines last September with the ‘discovery’ of the deadly powder – a widely-available preservative – which is legally available.

The group campaigns for the right of people to end their own lives at the time of their choosing. Membership of the cooperative surged after the announcement, but it came under fire for allowing people as young as 18 to join and for breaking the law which bans people from helping others to commit suicide. (DutchNews)


Sales of Dutch government property raises €317m in 2017

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch treasury became €317m richer last year through the sale of state-owned property. The government sold about 75 buildings including four prisons, four courthouses and 10 office blocks plus dozens of pieces of land, the state property service said on Thursday.

In addition government-owned buildings and land were leased out for an additional €138m. The most noteworthy sale was of Soestdijk palace. The former home of Queen Juliana and prince Bernhard is to become a centre for innovation in water management, food and sustainable energy.

Part of the building will be used as a hotel and houses will be built on the former military police grounds. Among the other buildings being found a new use are the former prison on the Havenstraat in Amsterdam which will become the new location for the British School of Amsterdam and the Bijlmerbajes prison south of Amsterdam which is being redeveloped into a residential area. (DutchNews)


The right to demonstrate is under threat, warns Dutch ombudsman

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The national ombudsman has warned Dutch local authorities and the police to stop placing so many restrictions on demonstrations, stating that the right to demonstrate in the Netherlands is coming under increasing pressure.

‘The authorities have a tendency to avoid risks,’ Reinier van Zutphen said in a new report which points out the right to demonstrate is enshrined in both the Dutch constitution and human rights treaties.

Police and local authorities often have to tread a fine line between the right to demonstrate and maintaining public order but in essence, the constitutional right to demonstrate should have priority, Van Zutphen said.

Examples of demonstrations which were banned or went wrong include a march by the far-right Pegida movement in Groningen and the anti-Zwarte Piet demonstrations in Maasluis in 2016 and in Dokkum last year.

‘The authorities should do its very best to facilitate and protect demonstrations, so that the man in the street can make his views clear – however unpopular they may be,’ Van Zutphen said. (DutchNews)


Striking primary school teachers march through Amsterdam

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Some 15,000 primary school teachers from Utrecht, Noord-Holland and Flevoland joined a protest march in Amsterdam on Wednesday as teachers went on strike throughout the three provinces.

The strike is part of a campaign for higher wages and improvements in working conditions which began last year. The demonstrators say the shortage of primary school teachers, currently around 2,000, will double by 2020 and that the government is not doing enough to boost teaching as a profession.

Last month, education minister Arie Slob sealed a deal on reducing the pressure of work at primary schools, including a €237m pay-out to employ more teachers. Although this comes on top of the €270m already agreed, teachers, unions and school managers say it is not enough.

They want the government to come up with an extra €630m to boost pay. Wednesday’s action is the fourth in a series of rolling strikes which have been planned in support of the campaign. The next strike, on April 13, will take place in Groningen, Friesland and Drenthe. (DutchNews)


Security services come clean on phone and internet taps: over 3,500 last year

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch security services AIVD and MIVD have published their first ever phone tap figures, showing a steady increase in phone call interception since 2002.

Fifteen years ago, the two organisations planted 559 phone and internet taps, or secret microphones, but by last year this had risen by almost 3,000 to 3,553, the Volkskrant said on Wednesday.

The publication of the figures follows a court case brought by privacy lobby group Bits of Freedom, which went as far as the Council of State, the highest Dutch administrative court.

The cabinet blames the rise in security service taps on the growing terrorist threat, cyber-crime and the increasing instability on the edges of Europe, the paper said. The figures do not include taps placed by the police, which reached almost 25,000 in 2016, the Volkskrant said.

In addition, the police made 60,000 requests for information about older phone traffic. Next week, Dutch nationals can vote in a referendum on a new law to give sweeping internet tapping powers to the security services.

The controversial legislation gives the security services powers to tap entire networks and hack private individuals in the hunt for information. It has also been criticised by the government’s Council of State as well as various privacy bodies. (DutchNews)


ING withdraws 50% pay rise for CEO after ‘underestimating public response’

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – ING’s supervisory board has withdrawn the proposed 50% pay rise for chief executive Ralph Hamers, saying it had ‘underestimated the public response in the Netherlands on this clearly sensitive matter’.

Hundreds of customers are thought to have closed their accounts in protest at the pay rise and the proposal to increase Hamer’s pay to €3m has been condemned as ‘arrogant’ and ‘out of touch’ by politicians across the political spectrum.

In a statement, the supervisory board has taken notice of the reactions of many Dutch stakeholders following the proposal. ‘In light of this, the supervisory board has reconsidered the proposal and has decided to not put it up for a vote at the Annual General Meeting,’ the board said.

‘Over the past days, many customers, employees and other stakeholders have expressed their opinion to us,’ board chairman Jeroen van der Veer said. ‘We as supervisory board are responsible for this proposal and regret the commotion caused by it.

‘We realise we have underestimated the public response in the Netherlands on this clearly sensitive matter. To prevent an ongoing public discussion damaging ING and its employees, the supervisory board has reconsidered its proposal.’

The board will now ‘carefully assess’ how it can develop a sustainable and competitive remuneration policy’. The pay rise would have taken Hamer’s basic salary to 30 times that of the average bank employee.

Van der Veer did not say at the time if Hamers had requested the pay rise, but said he hoped staff at the bank would understand. The most recent ING pay deal gave staff a 1.7% rise.

Prime minister

Prime Minister Mark Rutte and finance minister Wopke Hoekstra both welcomed the bank’s decision. Hoekstra, who had said he would look into measures to prevent such pay rises in future, said it was ‘the only appropriate response’. (DutchNews)


Aegon chief calls for housing market action as loans to first-time buyers drop

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Insurance company and mortgage provider Aegon is the latest organisation to call for action to free up the overheated Dutch housing market.

‘The percentage of loans made to first-time buyers in the central urban belt has fallen drastically,’ Aegon Nederland chief executive Maarten Edixhoven said in an interview with the Telegraaf.

In order to boost the market, more homes need to be built and the green heart – the rural area south of Amsterdam and west of Utrecht – should no longer be exempt from new building projects, he said.

Fewer than one in five mortgages agreed by Aegon, which also funds housing construction, is now with a first-time buyer, Edixhoven told the paper. Four years ago, double the number of mortgages went to people starting out on the housing ladder.

Older home owners too are finding it hard to downsize or move to more suitable housing because of the shortage of options. They are now staying put, which has effectively ‘put a cork’ in the availability of homes, he said.

The Telegraaf said this is the first time that one of the Netherlands big financial service groups has warned about the effect of the housing market problems. The Netherlands needs to build 80,000 homes a year for the next 12 years to meet demand, Aegon says. (DutchNews)


Les Fruits de Mer is Relaunching Amuseum Naturalis

ST. MARTIN (GRAND CASE) - After delighting over 10,000 visitors in its first two years, Amuseum Naturalis is coming back in a new location in 2018. St. Martin’s first natural history museum will be expanding to highlight island heritage and culture as well as nature.

At the new location, formerly The Old House museum, there will also be community projects including gardens, a composting center and a native plants nursery.

“We are thrilled to create a space to tell all the stories of St. Martin!” announced Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “We’re working with the local community to find and tell stories. We especially want to shine a light on heritage that’s been ignored or suppressed, and show how the island’s history and culture is fascinating and meaningful.”

Amuseum Naturalis is developed and operated by the Les Fruits de Mer association. The group believes this project is important for many reasons. Local school systems are already under stress after Hurricane Irma.

School materials on the island come from Europe or North America, and don’t teach enough about local nature or heritage. The Amuseum has been, and will be, free for all. It is a place where young people can discover science and history, and develop valuable skills.

“We’re really happy to see the amount of support the Amuseum is getting,” commented Amuseum curator Mark Yokoyama. “Volunteers have been coming to help clear the property and prepare the site. Everyone who comes falls in love with this place. People from around the world have been supporting with donations. It’s a big project, but together we can make it happen for the island!”

Les Fruits de Mer are currently working with volunteers to prepare the new location every weekend, and more volunteers are always welcome. The next volunteer day is Saturday, March 17th, and more information is available at and on the Les Fruits de Mer Facebook page.

There is also a crowdfunding campaign raising funds until March 30th. St. Martiners interested in sharing stories or ideas about topics to feature in the museum should contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

CUTLINE: Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House is being prepared for a 2018 launch.

The Old House

CUTLINE: Amuseum Naturalis had over 10,000 visitors in the last two years.

Amuseum Naturalis


He’s doing it again!

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY) - Fernando Clark, the Philosopher of Humor, is doing it again. This time in: Fernando Clark in your Uhm!! Since his last one man, standup comedy show “Fernando U 2 Baad” in November 2009 the Philosopher of humor has not given the people of St. Maarten, his fans, a taste of his unmatched comedy. Well, after many requests and demands from his fans, he is back at it again.

After Hurricane Irma and Maria struck the island last year, RAW Promotions Foundation, the team behind the comedian, has been searching for a suitable venue to host the next standup comedy show.

In fact, the “Fernando Clark in our Uhm!!” show had been cancelled from its proposed date, October 7th, 2017 due to the unwanted visit from the two storms who destroyed many locations including Tropicana Ballroom, where the shows was intended to be held.

Thus far, the solo-act humorist has always delivered rib-splitting humor causing face-changing laughter to the attendees and this show is no exception.

Family matters, political and social issues, superstitions, relationships and even his personal experiences are part of this show’s repertoire, which guarantees to have the patrons in stitches from the opening bell to the final round, if compared to a boxing match.

While the age limit to attend is set at 14 years up, this is solely to ensure that the humor does not go over the heads of under aged patrons. Fernando insists on keeping his humor clean from obscene language. “You can make them laugh, while keeping it clean” Fernando vouched, and continued: “But there may be instances where one’s imagination can take them elsewhere, but that is at their own account”.

When asked if he might be afraid to address any particular issue or topic in this upcoming show, Fernando responded: “I have never been afraid to address any issue in my comedy. When I do, I find a humorous angle to it. In my last show, I experimented with funerals, and that worked out just fine. The people loved it. However, you will recall that I landed in court some years ago for talking about a certain past politician, but that case fell by the wayside and no charges were brought against me.”   

The “Fernando Clark in your Uhm!! Show takes place on Saturday, March 24, 2018 under the tent at Port De Plaisance starting at 8.00 pm sharp. Gates open at 7.00 pm. Tickets are on sale at SOS Radio in Marigot, Big D Photo studio in the Marcus Building on the Walter Nisbeth Road and at Van Dorp Book store in Simpson Bay. Advance tickets are US$30,- / NAF54,- at the gate. At the door the price is US$35- or NAF63,-

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