Meet Maya Parbhoe: The Pro-Bitcoin Presidential Candidate Who Wants to Save Suriname


Bitcoin News Feed writes:
Meet Maya Parbhoe: The Pro-Bitcoin Presidential Candidate Who Wants to Save Suriname

On September 4, 2001, Winod Parbhoe was murdered in cold blood.

The entrepreneur, who was the founder of the Suriname Palace Casino, an establishment he co-owned with CCA Companies Incorporated (Conserver Corporation of America), was shot two times in the chest and once in the neck in a drive-by shooting, resulting in his death at the age of 36.

Preceding the shooting, Parbhoe had blown the whistle about how millions of dollars were being siphoned out of his business’ bank account at De Surinaamsche Bank (DSB), the largest bank in the country aside from the country’s central bank.

He had gone to the head of the DSB, the Central Bank of Suriname, the country’s Foreign Exchange Commission, the Minister of Justice (the current President of Suriname) and even the CIA to report that his funds were being drained from his business account.

Not only did no one help resolve the issue, but he was killed soon after making the complaint.

The case is still unsolved, and it’s been reported to be one of the largest injustices in Suriname’s history.

Parbhoe left behind a wife and one daughter — Maya Parbhoe, a then 13-year-old girl.

Maya Parbhoe with her father, Winod Parbhoe.

Like Father, Like Daughter

Maya Parbhoe, CEO of the Bitcoin startup Daedalus Labs and a member of the boards of two other companies she started — Quickship Logistics and Icarus Geo — inherited her father’s business acumen as well as his inability to stomach corruption.

Before explaining how she’s tapping into both in an effort to become the next President of Suriname, it’s important to understand the role her family has played in Suriname’s history and the impact this has had on her.

Parbhoe comes from a legacy of gifted businesspeople who helped develop Suriname, a former Dutch colony with a population of about 600,000 located on the northern coast of South America.

“My grandfather is actually the one that started as an entrepreneur here,” Parbhoe told Bitcoin Magazine.

“He migrated to the city and started his first business, a department store where they would sell brands like Kenwood, Siemens and Sony. It became the largest department store in the country, and it made us one of the wealthiest families in the country, if not the wealthiest,” she added.

Parbhoe’s grandfather also invested heavily in real estate and other companies.

Parbhoe with her grandparents.

When he passed away in the mid-1990s, Parbhoe’s father, Winod, took over the businesses and properties. Between what Winod inherited and what he started on his own, the Parbhoe family was doing very well by the turn of the millennium.

“We had our own airline. We had a wood processing plant. We had a fish farm,” explained Parbhoe.

“We had two buildings in the city and one other massive building. My dad had a lot of real estate, because it was multi-generational,” she added.

Parbhoe also recalled her father being “very much into math and tech,” much like her grandfather. Winod Parbhoe stayed in the know when it came to new technology. He would be the first to test it out and then distribute it via the department store.

The Details Of Winod Parbhoe’s Death

Winod’s success gave him the opportunity to travel. In the late-1990s, he went to New York City, where he saw the Plaza Hotel. It inspired him to build something similar in Suriname.

To make his vision a reality, he and his brother, Ghautam Dharmindre Parbhoe, partners in a company called Parbhoe’s Handelmaatschappij, teamed up with Dorsett Resorts and Hotels, a company that was acquired in 2001 by Conserver Corporation of America, which was then publicly-traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

“My father bought US$500,000 in stock just to be in shareholder meetings,” shared Parbhoe.

Winod Parbhoe entered into a joint venture with Dorsett Resorts and Hotels under the name Suriname Leisure Company, A.V.V.. Their first order of business was to remodel a building that Parbhoe owned to turn it into a hotel with a casino.

“During that remodel, somewhere along the way, Dorsett put a local manager here,” Parbhoe explained. That local manager was a New Zealander named Jeffrey Clague. He also became the general manager of the casino once it opened.

The people and entities involved with Suriname Leisure Company, A.V.V.

“The deal was that my dad was going to remodel the casino, facilitate the building of it, and then they would come in with the equipment and with skills and talent,” Parbhoe explained. “Then, somewhere along the way, the [manager from Dorsett] started bribing the CEO and COO of De Surinaamsche Bank to funnel funds from our accounts to foreign accounts.”

Who Killed Winod Parbhoe?

Parbhoe claims the funds were illegally funneled from Winod’s bank account to a BNY Mellon account to the US to finance weapons for FARC, a guerrilla rebel group in Colombia.

Clague was siphoning funds locally to Sarkis Songhanalian, an infamous arms dealer known as “the merchant of death,” famous for selling arms to rebels in Lebanon, Nicaragua, Colombia and other countries in conflict, according to Parbhoe.

Parbhoe claims that it was two Colombian hitmen that killed her father. This was verified by an eye witness for the murder who was told by the shooter not to speak about the shooting, according to Parbhoe.

Winod Parbhoe pressed civil and criminal charges against the DSB. The bank was convicted in the criminal case, but Parbhoe lost the civil case, which entered into appeal at the highest court of justice in Suriname in mid-June 2024.

In 2007, Clague was convicted of illegally transferring US$14.5 million in the casino’s profits. However, in 2008, Suriname’s Appeals Court reversed the ruling because Clague “had not been properly served,” according to the US Department of State.

No one involved with the murder of Parbhoe’s father was ever brought up on charges.

The Repercussions

Once the dust had settled around Parbhoe’s father’s death, Maya and her mother learned that they’d been wiped out. “We basically lost everything,” said Parbhoe.

“There’s an independent accounting institution for the country called the Centrale Landsaccountantsdienst, and they did an independent study which confirmed that funds were funneled from our accounts to the tune of US$16.4 million,” she added.

Parbhoe then went into greater detail about why her family never saw that money again.

“We lost the civil suit [initially] because the judge was bought off,” said Parbhoe.

“But then it went into appeal. But what happened is what we call in the Dutch system is a ‘bottom procedure,’ which means it takes a long time — over 20 years — to reach a resolution,” she explained.

On June 11, 2024, the court ruled that Parbhoe and her mother have no claims to the funds.

Parbhoe claims there was corruption at play again. She shared how a “new, young judge” was appointed to the appealed case “at the last minute,” replacing the judge who’d become familiar with the case over years.

“He decided that we have no interest,” said Parbhoe of the new judge. “It’s like someone bought the judge off again.”

Entrenched Injustice

Parbhoe explained that what happened with this case happens often in Suriname, especially these days.

She said that the country’s Attorney General, Garcia Paragsingh, isn’t currently even prosecuting cases involving the country’s current President, and that even if she were, it wouldn’t have much effect, as the corruption in the country goes all the way to its top officials.

The former President of Suriname, Desiré Bouterse, has been sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment for murdering 15 political opponents from the country’s then military regime in 1982 and isn’t permitted into the US due to the crimes he committed.

He’s yet to turn himself in to serve that sentence, though, and the authorities haven’t arrested him.

The country’s Vice President, Ronnie Brunswijk, has been convicted of drug trafficking.

Parbhoe explained that her family is appealing the civil case her father started again and that it will go to the highest court of justice in the country, the equivalent of the Supreme Court in the US, where three judges will rule on the case. She believes that her family has a better shot at winning this appeal, as it is harder to bribe three judges as opposed to one.

However, while Parbhoe isn’t outright pessimistic about what might happen as a result of this appeal, she also isn’t hopeful.

“I had a little bit of hope left that, you know, justice would be served on June 11, but it wasn’t,” she said.

She went on to share that she’s been quiet about this, but that after June 11 she’s no longer willing to remain silent about the injustice in her country.

“I’m tired of them covering things up and just corruption in general,” said Parbhoe. “That’s where the urge to fight corruption and injustice stems from — it’s something that has affected me and my family so closely ever since I was a kid.”

Parbhoe and Her Single Mother

Because of the money that was funneled out of her father’s bank account and because of “corrupt notary practices,” as Parbhoe put it, she and her mother not only lost all of the money in the bank account, but all of their assets, as well.

Almost overnight, Parbhoe and her mother went from being on top of the world financially to having almost nothing to their names.

“We lost everything. My mom and I would go from place to place, from family member to family member, for two years,” Parbhoe explained.

Despite the challenges Parbhoe’s mother faced, she salvaged the small amount of funds she had left and ran a tax-free shop at the airport that her husband had started while making every effort to keep Parbhoe enrolled in the best schools.

Parbhoe and her mother.

“She made sure that I got the best education and could follow my dreams, because I was always a very weird, ambitious, nerdy kid, and I told her when I was six years old that I was going to Harvard, Princeton or Yale,” recounted Parbhoe. (Parbhoe didn’t end up attending one of these schools but did attend a certificate program at Oxford.) She also added that, by age six, she was assembling PCs.

For college, Parbhoe went to the Netherlands to study econometrics. By age 19, she’d returned to Suriname and was working three jobs — one of which was running what was then called GreyMic Imports, now called Quickship Logistics, an import company she’d founded when she was 15 with her mother’s help.

Parbhoe laying the first stone for the office of her first company GreyMic, now Quickship Logistics.

At that same time, she was able to get a mortgage to buy a house for her and her mother when a friend of her father’s helped her get a loan — at a 19% interest rate, which is common in Suriname. The two still live together in this house.

The Entrepreneur

Parbhoe and her mother saw their quality of life improve dramatically while Parbhoe was in her early-to-mid 20s. By 2015, when Parbhoe was 27, she was looking for a new challenge.

“The import company was growing at a rate of about 10%, and I wanted something that had the potential to make more than US$1 million in revenue,” said Parbhoe.

So Parbhoe founded her second company, Icarus Geo, with Sarish Genworth Serge Tjin Wong Joe, a civil engineer who was 15 years her elder. The two began to work on building infrastructure such as roads, dams, dikes and ports.

“We had Newmont as our first customer, which is the eighth largest gold mine in the world,” shared Parbhoe. “We did all the roads for Newmont.”

Things quickly accelerated, as Icarus Geo began acquiring bigger and bigger contracts, helping Parbhoe meet her revenue goal sooner than she’d anticipated.

“We scaled that company pretty quickly from US$800,000 in revenue in the first year to like US$5.8 million the third year, right before COVID,” Parbhoe explained. “We reached my goals pretty quickly.”

The company now builds public roads in both Suriname and Guyana, according to Parbhoe.

With some money in her pocket, Parbhoe began to think about what type of company to build next. She wanted to solve a problem while tapping into her love for technology and capital markets.

“I was looking at the problems I faced throughout my life and as an entrepreneur,” she recalled. “I saw US companies being able to scale and being able to get investments so easily, and I saw an opportunity in Suriname because we don’t have a capital market.”

For context, she explained that there are 11 publicly-traded companies in Suriname that are all owned by the same group of people.

“Our capital market is a laptop with an Excel sheet that goes around once a month,” she said with a chuckle.

OuroX

Parbhoe enrolled in Oxford’s Fintech Programme in efforts to broaden her network and develop the vision for her next company.

The course itself didn’t do much for Parbhoe: “It was like blockchain bullshit with all that VC fluff in there,” she said.

However, she was selected by her professors to join the Oxford Fintech Lab, which helps entrepreneurs like herself build finance-related startups from the ground up.

Parbhoe with her cohort at the Oxford Fintech Lab.

This helped her build her next company, OuroX, a spot securities exchange platform designed to cater to investors in Latin American and the Caribbean, according to the description of the company on Pitchbook.

Parbhoe intended for OuroX to scale to the size of FTX, giving the people of Suriname access to capital markets in the process.

She said that the intention was to “lower the barrier to entry and create a capital market without needing the traditional financial system or infrastructure.”

OuroX planned to do this by utilizing the Liquid Network and lowering the minimum amount required for investment.

Parbhoe worked with AlphaPoint to launch the platform, and she had brought the governor of Suriname’s Central Bank, Robert van Trikt, into the fold as she tried to get her country integrated with international capital markets.

They were set to issue a $190 million bond issuance for Suriname’s state oil refinery — the only profitable state-run enterprise in the country — in January 2020 when van Trikt was prosecuted and locked up for money laundering alongside the country’s Minister of Finance.

By May, a new governor was installed, but he wasn’t very tech-savvy, according to Parbhoe. The new minister of finance understood the technology better than the central bank’s governor, but asked Parbhoe to hold off on advancing the project so that he could focus on Suriname’s program with the IMF first. Parbhoe felt strongly that Suriname didn’t need approval or assistance from the IMF, though.

“It’d been an IMF mandate since 2011 to develop the capital market,” explained Parbhoe, who felt that she could help the country meet this mandate without assistance from the organization.

Parbhoe had worked with all of the banks and financial institutions in the country. While she admits that most of them didn’t comprehend what she was trying to do, the Minister of Finance understood her vision and remained supportive — at least for some time.

Parbhoe lost his support when he had to step down in the wake of his son-in-law shooting his grandson right before he uncovered a massive money-laundering fraud (“You can’t make this shit up,” said Parbhoe).

The Minister of Finance who then replaced him wasn’t pro-innovation and couldn’t focus on working with Parbhoe as he was sidetracked in having to deal with government corruption.

In September 2022, Parbhoe was done waiting for the government to see her vision and was fed up with being targeted for speaking out against the government’s corruption.

“I was getting threats at the time, because I was being too much of a political activist, saying things against the central bank, [speaking out] against money laundering,” she explained.

“I wanted to innovate. I wanted to create. So, I went to Switzerland and met my first investor there,” she added.

According to Parbhoe, this investor suggested she take a step back from fighting the powers that be in Suriname and told her to keep her mind open.

“Maybe in a year you’ll be working on something completely different,” Parbhoe said the investor told her.

This marked the end of Parbhoe’s attempt to get OuroX off the ground.

Daedalus Labs

After realizing that she couldn’t stop the government from working against her in Suriname, she incorporated a new company, Daedalus Labs, in Bermuda in May 2023.

Parbhoe incorporated the company abroad to distance herself from the Surinamese government and its hindrances, so that she could focus o