Bati Bleki Buzz Weekly Recap April 22nd, 2018

Who will answer our questions at Setar NV??

Former Setar employee Egbert Yvan Koolman, 49, cut a deal with the prosecutor in his criminal case in Miami, he will be sentenced soon, fast and easy. Cheaper than a long expensive trial. His lawyer probably advised him to plead guilty and get it over with, because it’s his current wife that is paying lawyer fees.

We first read about the case in the media almost two years ago, when the Panama Papers exposed Koolman for taking bribes.

A few days ago, he “pleaded guilty for laundering millions in a kickback scheme with Miami mobile-phone vendors…. admitting that he pocketed $1.3 million in bribes to steer $45 million worth of Aruba government phone contracts to about 10 companies in Miami and elsewhere. Some of his purchases were second-hand phones that were unknowingly infected with porn.”

The memorable Koolman criminal case, ending his racketeering enterprise will wrap up in June, but no one is saying anything about the civil suit, and the other co-conspirators including his former wife, Evarina Debby Koolman.

Setar is not telling us what measures they instituted to make sure this never happens again.

Setar is not explaining anything about the colossal failure of their checks and balance system.

They are not telling us what went wrong. For ten years.

Are they now looking into their internal procedures?

What happened to well-publicized “know-your-customer, anti-money laundering rules?”

Just to refresh your memory: Koolman, whose job was to buy phones for Setar, directed his scheme for a decade. He was the Product Manager until fired in August 2016.

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Koolman received hundreds of thousands of dollars from US mobile-phone vendors, which wired the money to his Panama bank accounts.

EXAMPLE: A Miami businessman paid him $705,000 in bribes in exchange for $23.8 million in mobile-phone orders from Setar.

Koolman spent some of the money on renovations for his house in Aruba, including pool repairs and solar panels, the lawsuit claims. Other funds were used to buy his son a pickup truck and pay rent and other expenses for his former mistress.

I did not find evidence that any of the cash was recovered, but some of it must have been.

The law suit in Miami sought damages from Koolman, his former-wife and the company’s former suppliers, based on his guilt admission to “bribery, bid-rigging, fraud and racketeering violations.”

Amazingly, if not for the Panama Papers, this bilking could have gone forever.

Koolman cheated the Aruban people out of millions of dollars because he could, Setar institutional controls sucked, and that’s why the company regularly paid 20 percent MORE for products, many of which were not new but refurbished, and infected with viruses and malware.

And THEY say they DID NOT KNOW?!


Nothing New but Still Interesting

The following is a summary of an Armand Hessels press-release that published today in the local media. It is an interesting piece since Armand, a retired teacher, took it upon himself to be the island’s watchdog of Good Governance, or the lack thereof, for the past 31 years, since Status Aparte.

What he is saying today is the following:

During the first week of April the local court decided to vacate eight kiosks in the Welcome Plaza next to the Oranjestad port because the permits for these businesses were handed out arbitrarily, by the outgoing MinInfra, during the last AVP government days in 2017, as farewell gifts to supporters, with total disregard to due process.

Another surprise was the DTI facility, where all of us must go to obtain a Certificate of Roadworthiness for our cars. Just a month ago, the current MinInfra informed the public that his predecessor, on election day, September 22nd, signed an agreement with a new location in Barcadera, paying Awg 67,000 a month for rent, for a smaller space, which is Awg 20,000 more expensive than the previous in Savaneta, in violation of every rule in the book. There was no public tender for the construction project, the budget was not approved. That piece of business was handed for mysterious reasons, as a gift to a local company.    

Hessels continues to quote three different reports in favor of curbing this island’s hotel room proliferation yet states that at the beginning of 2018 it became clear that the former MinInfra authorized the construction of 7,000 additional new ones.

He says, it already became clear in the year 2000 that hotel room expansion has negative effects on the country, namely it stretches our carrying capacity and puts pressure on the infrastructure. During the ‘National Conference on Tourism in Aruba’, many local stakeholders opined that the sustainable long-term goal is a more balanced economic climate that would maintain the island’s culture. And with the choice between a high-rise luxury hotel and a small boutique hotel, the second will serve the community better, because large international chains demand tax holidays – just a form of subsidy thanking a global brand — while our economy is left to shoulder the cost of minimum wage imported employees.

The report ‘How far, and how fast? Population, culture and carrying capacity in Aruba,’ from 2009, written by Sam Cole and Victoria Razak of the University of Buffalo confirmed those findings and seriously warned against expansion threatening the island’s carrying capacity and the Aruban identity. In fact, that report wanted to stall development until 2045.

Also, former AVP director Arjen Alberts indicated in his analysis “Immigration-dependent extensive growth in small island tourism economies: The cases of Aruba and Sint Maarten,” that we have reached the limit of growth in the tourist industry.

And that is why in 2010 the AVP government declared a moratorium on hotel rooms, and the former MinPres announced that the Ritz Carlton would be the last hotel built.

Why then Hessels questions, contrary to economic advice and the will of the island’s residents, why did up to 7,000 new hotel room receive counterproductive permits?

Hessel concludes that in a government that exploits its job for profit, this was a golden irresistible opportunity with commissions earned on land, construction, workers’ permits and the hotel personnel that must be imported on a grand scale.

According to Hessel, at the end of 2017, a report published by General Controllership (CC) reviewed most of the infrastructure projects of the AVP government and reached the conclusion that while 1 billion was spent — most of the projects have been carried out by the MinInfra — despite the enormous sums spent there were many faults, mostly a lack of integral infrastructure planning that made it difficult to predict financial consequences. The information shared was deficient, which complicated the task of control, and the sustainability of projects came under fire due to lack of transparency.

These inappropriate and / or ineffective financial practices, put the country at big risk, Hessel concludes. And when confronted in Parliament about negative consequences of his leadership the MinInfra declared he did not give a damn, about the concerns of his fellow members of Parliament.

One the former MinInfra’ s most notorious sins was how he dispensed parcels of land without due process or regard to the rule of law. Hessels entered a number of complaints against the former MinInfra, specifically against his practice of selling land to middle people who turned around to sell the terrain for commercial exploitation. Unfortunately, much of the investigation into this matter turned impossible because documents were destroyed, which is by itself punishable by law. While Hessels wanted to investigate further and follow the money trail, he found it was frustrating.

At the end of the fairly long article Hessels suggests to follow the example of Sint Maarten that imported 50 investigator Policeman from the Netherlands to research the activities of the government, and the country. He feels it would be the right thing to do to rapidly investigate wrongdoings and to serve in a preventive function to deter the sitting government from further unlawful activities. Hessels feels the expense will be peanuts in comparison to the cost overrun of malicious practices.
Turibana 22, Noord, ARUBA


Big News in Vegas, Business as Usual in Aruba

On Monday, I read that Icahn Enterprises L.P. announced that its majority-owned subsidiary, Tropicana Entertainment Inc. entered into a definitive agreement to sell Tropicana’s real estate to Gaming and Leisure Properties, Inc. and to merge its gaming and hotel operations into Eldorado Resorts, Inc. for aggregate consideration of approximately $1.85 billion.

Billionaire investor Carl Icahn has agreed to sell Tropicana Entertainment’s hotel real estate and operations after becoming interested in it in 2008 and buying it in 2010 from bankruptcy. He invested blood, sweat and tears, turned the business around successfully and was proud to announce the sale on Monday.

HOWEVER, the transaction does not include Tropicana’s Aruba assets, which remain within the original holding company.

General Manager Richard Roy reports that it’s business as usual in Aruba. The Tropicana Resort here is knee-deep in renovations, having already upgraded 91 of its rooms and another one hundred are currently undergoing a facelift.

Of the 362 resort rooms about 60% are occupied by timeshare owners and exchanges via Interval International in the high season and about 20% in the off season. The balance of guests are transient travelers who love the resort’s Eagle beach location. The Double Down Sports Bar & Grill at the casino offers all day dining and gaming and Uncle Tony’s pizza in a fun spot to grab a bite, on the pool deck.

“We’re selling fixed vacation weeks in house, at a steady pace,” says Richard, “our vacation villas are comfortable and spacious, and boast full kitchens, but if you don’t want to cook, Double Down offers delicious dining and room service, and Superfood, as you know, is located just across the street.”

“We want to assure our guests and our 250 employees that we will look after their interest, and deliver as always, excellence in hospitality, fun in gaming and consistent value,” he adds.


Que Pasa Restaurant, Art Gallery & Bar now new and improved!

In the early 90s an eatery in town by the name of Que Pasa, became an overnight success when it featured quality fun food, in a relaxed Bohemian atmosphere.

Que Pasa made its home in a crumbling cunucu house, on a backstreet in Oranjestad, that was as charming and it was cozy, and was owned by a pair of young, dynamic, some say sexy, Dutch & German-born chef-proprietors.

The party then moved into a larger space on Wilhelminastraat. Same formula, Bohemia, cozy, fun, with reasonably priced quality food …. and then it changed hands, moving two doors down the street, when another iconic eatery of the 90s, Boonoonoonoos, went out of business.

We remained loyal throughout, because by then we were addicted to this mix of tasty food and companionship; we knew everyone at every table, behind the bar, and in the kitchen, the bartender remembered our favorites and the menu board was ever changing.

Que Pasa taught us never to look at the eclectic printed menu, but to giddily anticipate the hand-written chalk board filled with culinary surprises.

In its one-before-last incarnations, Adi And Marvin lived and breathed Que Pasa, for a long time, one in charge of the kitchen, the other reigning over the bar and dining room. The restaurant spread over two floors, offered an incredible boutique filled with whimsical artwork and crafts, and just made it look so easy, so cool and relaxed.

We liked to sit at the bar and observe Marvin. He was smooth. A great DJ, a schmoozer, and a host. The food always pleased all senses, and when we thought it will last forever life happened with all its ups and downs, then more ups and more down, and the pair of dedicated restaurateurs lost steam and sold.

So here we are, Que Pasa was recently purchased by Aruba Wine & Dine, a local chain of diverse eateries and bars in great locations.    

Managing Director Evert Gerards decorated. We did not know he had it in him. But he completely revamped the décor in the original Bohemian spirit and artistic style. The restaurant is now cozier than ever.

We were served by a blonde goddess, she is the restaurant manager, Patricia. The hand-written chalk board was filled with culinary surprises. I fancied the Bouillabaisse, a rich tomato broth served with crunchy toast and rouille, and a lobster appetizer on a bed of endive salad, with egg. My dinner companion ordered a fish ceviche which was served in a crispy fried banana cup, and the fresh catch, three ways a-la Paris!   

I finished every morsel on my plate. We didn’t even look at the menu.

But it is worth scrutiny. Most of the Que Pasa classics are on, Italian Carpaccio, French Onion Soup, Fried Brie, Spicy Shrimp Pil Pil, and a well-rounded list of specialties from around the globe, Oriental Chicken Sesame Stir Fry, Schnitzel with Stroganoff Sauce, Shrimp Pina Colada, Caribbean Grouper, Tuna Pepper Steak and Tenderloin in red wine sauce with an optional blue cheese crust.

Que Pasa now featured a Bar Tapas menu, and you may order a surprise tapas platter that delivers the chef’s selection. Happy Hour is celebrated twice a day from 4pm to 6pm and from 10pm to 12midnight. Check out the daily Early Bird Special with a 3-course menu for just $21.95 or attend the Tuesday Wine & Food Pairing or the Saturday night BBQ.   

Que Pasa, in the historic street of Oranjestad, in a 100+ year old building, International Fusion Cuisine, + daily specials from 4pm to midnight.


The Welcome Plaza in Oranjestad

The vision according to the Infra-team, from 2013: Oranjestad will have a vertical and a horizontal loop. The horizontal, leading visitors from Plaza Paardenbaai at the cruise ship terminal to Plaza Museum then along the main-street to Plaza Nikki Habibe and back to Plaza Daniel Leo and Havenstraat. This loop will allow visitors various interesting cultural discovery stops and shopping opportunities — hop off and on the tram at seven smartly designed stops. A vertical corridor would link the Central Post Office, the University of Aruba and the Church with the refreshed court buildings and the main-street, flowing into Plaza Padu and the seat of our government in the new expanded City Hall and the Cocolishi building. Picturesque water fountains and lush landscaping will complete the improved and embellished look of Oranjestad.

It’s helpful to look back and check how we saw it.

I think about 70% or the vision was accomplished at 150% of the budget.

I visited Plaza Paardenbaai this week. There was a MOB of free-lance guides hanging at the entrance to the port, someone should tell them to wear a uniform, a name tag and to be more respectful, shaven and clean cut. It would improve their business.

The scene is overwhelming at first, especially for visitors trying to figure out which gypsy tour option to take, buying on the street, an unsanctioned and uninspected product, cheaper than the on-board options.

The plaza has a total of 34 kiosks. Nineteen of those have been relocated from the shanty town across the street. The rest were designated to artisans. Eight were gifted by the former MinInfra to friends and family. The issue is in court. They must vacate, but they are protesting.

Of course, the original idea sounded good, artisans working at the port entrance in view of customers. In reality the space is too small for a full studio set up with a ceramic kiln, for example, too hot, too noisy, and full of interruptions. The tram makes INCREDIBLE screeching noises. A serious artisan could never work there.

A serious artisan would never sit in a cubicle selling knickknack to visitors. That would be a waste of his/her artistic time. So, they need to hire employees, which is an added burden for an artist.

Solution: Fill the plaza with retail specialists? Alas, all our retail specialists sell exactly the same tchotchkes, made in China, made in India, made in Haiti, and Colombia souvenirs.

But that is what visitors want to buy, they tell me.

Visitors don’t want to spend money on authentic artifacts.  

One of the kiosks, the best, I hear, with work on display by 18 local artisans is closed. Why? The door is jammed. Well, fix it, no?! It is unclear who is in charge at DOW, so nothing is being done, besides the doors were ordered by the former MinInfra in POLAND, and parts are difficult to get, so the kiosk of artisan Lia Maldonado is out of commission.

I have to say that Trudy Lampe’s kiosk is cute, and she makes an effort to work on the spot, painting souvenir plates. Though the time she spends in the plaza sets her back with her regular work at the studio in Savaneta.

Divi Diva, a kiosk by Elizabeth Guanipa is also presentable, with jewelry made in Aruba, locally embroidered clutches, and small paintings by Eliza Lejuez.  

Remember, the plaza only opens when cruise ships are in town, because the rental agreements did not stipulated rules, regulations or opening hours.


Ecogas Approach: the solution for our waste on Aruba?

This arrived in the mail today ECOGAS needs our grass root support

On the 25th of April 2018 the Society of Engineers on Aruba (SIA) organizes an event where Mr. Ramsey Halabi of ECOGAS will present the approach to a possible solution for our waste problems on Aruba.

The new Government of Aruba is determined to solve the waste problems on the island. For that the Aruban Government announced in the media in January of this year to be working on sustainable waste management solutions. And to do that the Government identified a three-track approach:

  1. A new / solid waste thermal treatment & energy recovery plant
  2. Closure and remediation of the current landfill at Parkietenbos
  3. Creation of a sanitary landfill for residual waste and in case of debris from disasters

To that extent the Government requested the market to participate by sending in Requests for Information (RFI) on the above three-track approach. The deadline for sending this information was on the 16 of March 2018.

In a press release by the current Minister for the Environment declared that local and international companies reacted on the RFI’s, even from Europe and China.

However according to Ecogas, an approach to deal with the waste generated on Aruba is already in place.  Before the upgrade of its facility into a gasification plant in 2014, Ecogas mechanically sorted the incoming waste stream, which also included labor intensive work with a low yield on the marketable recyclables along with low market prices.  New equipment such as shredders, bunkers, densifiers and gasifiers were installed. The process shifted into the production of RDF (Refuse Derived Fuel) which contains a considerable amount of energy value, while ferrous, non-ferrous metals and carboard are still separated for export. The intention is to process the RDF into gas which would be delivered to the power plant and drive either a generator or boiler for the production of electricity.  The system worked but later was put on hold due to a single “out of spec” constituent. In the meantime, the RDF which was extensively tested as per US EPA standards for its TCLP properties, is now bagged, baled, compacted and extruded into an Envirobale reducing its volume by 80% for further storing into available quarries.

Please visit the following Youtube site to learn about the principles of the gasification process:

The main question to be discussed during the presentation is: if the technical solutions are already in place, how come it’s not in operation?

You as engineers are invited at this presentation which will take place at the building of SONRISA Pavia, starting at 7 pm on the 25th of April 2018. A route plan to this building can be found by clicking on the following link:,-70.0043441,17z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x782f3e71d1eb18ea!8m2!3d12.5212333!4d-70.0021503?hl=nl&authuser=0

Please confirm your attendance at this event

Please confirm your attendance by sending an email, mentioning your degree in Engineering, to [email protected] but not later than by noon on Tuesday the 24th April 2018.  

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April 22, 2018
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