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EXCLUSIVE: Will the Prime Minister step in at GEBE to ensure full investigation takes place?

PHILIPSBURG: --- Now that the Prosecutors Office and KPSM indicated to the Government of St. Maarten that the management of NV GEBE did not cooperate with their investigation as such they were unable to sufficiently establish what the actual danger to Sint Maarten has been due to the hack.

  The prosecutor’s office in its press release and report said that due to NV GEBE's non-cooperative attitude, “Freya” investigation could not establish what were the exact risks for the country and clients of GEBE and who was behind the attack, and the dangers for the future. They further stated that they had not been any access to the hacked computer system at any time during the investigation.

This attitude alone should prompt the shareholder namely Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs to step in and order a full-scale investigation into the alleged Black Byte hack especially since access was denied.

 Government should know who attacked the utility company’s data system creating at risk on the level of national security, and they only way they would know is by having a thorough investigation done.

 On 17 March 2022, a cyber-attack was discovered on GEBE. A message in the computer system indicated that the company had been hacked by “Black Byte”, an organization that focuses on stealing and encrypting data, mainly from companies (ransomware). As a result of the hack, the entire customer database, financial data, and other business data were encrypted.

 Workers of NV GEBE have said that the signs were on the wall for the longest time. Many fought a dignified battle to prevent just these situations. But when the controlling and gatekeepers’ bodies fail to act despite being well appraised of the situations at hand then these are the outcome.

The workers lamented that the court is the last remedial body that can decide to hold a hand over the government’s head by simply allowing the Government to be held liable for its repeated corporate blunders and to target board members that fail to protect the government-owned company, especially since it is the only one of its kind on St. Maarten.

The disgruntled workers that have become the target of the acting temporary manager said that it's time for the country’s Prime Minister to put on her big girl pants and take the bull by its horns to ensure that real justice is served in St. Maarten. “Workers are victimized the moment they speak up. They are being blamed for leaking information and even fired.”

There have been a number of news articles highlighting the true problems at NV GEBE and several allegations of corruption within the company. This should be of concern to the Prime Minister.

Former board members said they were targeted by the government and even taken to court even though they are professional and independent people of the St. Maarten community. “Today what we are seeing is a total disgrace to the country and its people and the Government does nothing to safeguard the company and its people. GEBE's most valuable assets are its workers and government does not seem to know that.

Questionable contracts.

The workers further state that they have placed themselves at risk trying to protect the company when questionable contracts were given out even implicating the current Minister of VROMI. These allegations are serious enough for the Prime Minister to jump on board. Whether or not the Minister of VROMI is the highest vote-getter or is the deputy prime minister. Allegations of corruption are serious, especially when families, acquaintances, and friends of the Minister are placed on the Supervisory Board when they are not qualified for such positions.

They said decisions taken by the Minister of VROMI have jeopardized the company and its workers. “We believe there is more to the hack that must be investigated. The Temporary Manager who is now out sick was the head of the IT department for a number of years. This hack happened when there was a deadlock with his contractual agreement as he is the candidate for the Chief Operating Officer (COO). There has been a deadlock with the SBOD and the CEO and COO contracts then comes the Black Byte hack. GEBE remained closed for close to 3 months and only reopened when the contracts for both candidates were signed. The timing is suspicious and the fact that they did not fully cooperate with the investigation shows that there are things that are hidden. "We also want to know what it costs the company to recover its data. How much was paid to Aurora InfoTech, LLC."

They further said that since the National Alliance and United Peoples Party government took office there have been scandals upon scandals that warranted their removal from office. They mentioned the situation at the Princess Juliana International Airport that led to a court proceeding on Friday, June 24th.

These workers said they want to know what else has to happen in order for real decisions to be taken. Just recently the Acting Interim Manager lied to the Parliament of St. Maarten and still there are no consequences.

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