Suspended prison sentence and forfeiture of property for illegal renting

A young retired woman has been charged for not having declared her income earned from seasonal rentals for three years.

She rents two studios which she owns in a residence in Nettle Bay. She is also in charge of managing other apartments within this same residence, meaning she is in charge of welcoming tourists and booking reservations. It is a "favor that she does for some friends." She takes a commission of 15 to 25 % of the rent, "it depends on whether or not she has to find clients". The problem is that she does not declare either of these two sources of income. For the judicial authorities, it entails undeclared work as a real estate agent and money laundering. On Thursday, she appeared before the Saint-Martin criminal court.

The Office of the Prosecutor was informed about this case, not by the tax services but by a person, who also owns property in this residence. Obviously, this person is in conflict with the suspect and thinks that she is embezzling part of the condominium’s money. And moreover, this was how the investigation began. "It’s a personal revenge", she explained before the judge.

Indeed at the start of the incident, the suspect, EP, was the manager of a real estate agency in Marigot and was in charge of the owners’ association in this residence. Her management is under scrutiny, particularly by LM who informed the judicial authorities.

EP was the subject of an investigation and was put into custody. A search was conducted in her home. All the evidence gathered showed that no money was embezzled to the prejudice of the condominium. However, they confirmed an expensive "lifestyle" with regard to her salary.

The analysis of her bank accounts revealed that sums of money were regularly deposited, about 270,000 € accumulated in three years. Part of it comes from the rental of her apartments and another part from the management of the apartments.

For the Deputy Prosecutor, it’s outright money laundering. This laundering has even been "made worse" because it’s practiced on a regular basis. He believes that if the suspect had declared this income, she still would have been able to earn 160,000€ net.

Michaël Ohayon has asked for an 18-month suspended prison sentence as well as the confiscation of two of her studios. The judgment was adjourned until January 26, 2017.

In addition, the tax services have been seized.

Estelle Gasnet