ML and HL, who are both in their forties, have been living in Dutch for about 20 years, where they have a resident card. They have two children schooled in Dutch part. They have been co-managers of a mini-market in Orient Bay since 2015. “We chose the French part because there are fewer robberies than in the Dutch part. We had a business in Orleans District and then we came to Orient Bay, “they explain.
At the start of their business, they made a declaration of activity with the prefecture as the law provided at the time. Indeed, MW and HL are Chinese and as non-European foreigners and not domiciled in France, they can create a company in France and for that a simple declaration with the authorities is necessary.
It is in these conditions that the couple has been working for years in Saint-Martin. A situation that, for the prosecutor’s office, is not entirely legal and generates “unfair competition”. So “he took on the problem.” The couple L. is the first Chinese managers to be charged after checks and to have been summoned before the Criminal Court of St. Martin, five other managers must appear in January.
For the vice-prosecutor, ML and HL do more than manage their activity: “they participate in its survival, its operation”. At the hearing, he asked them what their definition of work was, prompting them to explain the different tasks they perform. The couple described their day of work starting with the purchase of goods in Dutch part, then the opening of the trade, the shelves of products, the reception of customers, etc. until closing.
For the representative of the public prosecutor’s office, the couple has a salaried activity that must be declared to the authorities (Urssaf). If the couple pays the corporate tax, the license-patent, the TGCA, it does not pay the social contributions. That’s why he is being sued for concealed work.
In addition, the couple’s daughter gives a helping hand to her parents during the school holidays without being declared. The prosecution considers that this is hidden work. The teenager is also of Chinese nationality, she must be provided with a residence permit and a work permit to work in a French country, documents she does not have. His parents are therefore also prosecuted for employment of a foreigner without a work permit.
For the co-accused’s lawyer, it is a “between family assistance” that is authorized by law. The board has a different vision of the situation of its customers vis-à-vis the French law. Marion Tillard considers that as foreign non-European managers and non-residents in French part, her clients can work without having to be employees, so without having to declare themselves to the competent authorities. She cited a piece of legislation at the hearing.
Not having a residence permit in French St Martin, the couple is also under an obligation to leave the French side but refused to sign the notification. “They still wanted to come to the hearing to explain,” said Master Tillard.
The public prosecutor’s office ordered a fine of 10,000 euros against each of the two defendants, half of whom were suspended and a ban on running a commercial activity for one year.
After deliberation, the court sentenced each to a fine of 10,000 euros.