Member of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) has been summoned by the lawyer of St. Maarten/Curaçao casino owner Francesco Corallo to refrain from calling the latter a “mafia boss.” Van Raak stated this in his column which was published on the Dutch website The Post Online (www.thepostonline.nl) on Tuesday. “I am not to call Francesco Corallo a mafia boss anymore. That is what the Caribbean casino owner told me in writing last week; via his lawyer.”
According to Van Raak, he was requested to be cautious in making statements as a politician. “But as a politician it is my task to expose (possible) abuses.” He hoped that Tuesday’s debate with Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk would result in a start of an investigation of corrupt politicians. “If Corallo is right and all the accusations are wrong, he should not have any objection to that investigation.”
Calling correspondence through lawyers “impersonal” and non-conducive to the (public) debates, Van Raak explained in his column how this “misunderstanding” came about. He said that it all started with a declaration of the Italian Ministry of Home Affairs in May 2011, in which it was stated that Corallo was “involved in international drug trafficking” and “an important person in the Sicilian mafia.” The statement of the ministry further implied that Corallo had started a “touristic centre in St. Maarten through which money was laundered.” Information, which Van Raak said, was confirmed by Italian au-thorities.
Van Raak published his column on the day of a debate of the Second Chamber’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations with Minister Plasterk about the alleged ties between the under and upper world on Curaçao and St. Maarten. The debate was held on the request of Van Raak. “Reason for this debate was my suspicion that many politicians on the islands are being paid by the gambling industry in which Corallo plays a major role. Mostly via the Atlantis World Group which exploits casinos in the Caribbean. But also through (illegal) lotteries,” Van Raak said. The Member of Parliament (MP) specifically referred to the criminal court case against former Curaçao Prime Minister Gerrit Schotte of the MFK party. Schotte has been accused of accepting large sums of money, which the Prosecutor said were made to benefit Corallo and his companies. Schotte was also said to have promised, in return for the money, to provide secret government information to Corallo, to give Corallo influence in local politics through the MFK party, that he would try to have Corallo recommended on an international level and that he would make an effort to have Corallo or persons of his company be appointed in a major institutional position.
“We don’t know for sure what this major institutional position was. Possibly an important function at the Central Bank of Curaçao and St. Maarten, or a diplomatic position. These functions required a declaration of proper conduct, which the Italian Minister of Home Affairs didn’t want to provide. The minister did warn that it ‘concerned an important person of the Sicilian mafia’,” said Van Raak.
According to Van Raak, a report of the Curaçao security agency VDC that includes the screening of Schotte and several other candidate ministers also referred to the ties with Corallo and the “Italian mafia.” “Publication of this screen-ing was the cause for a major data theft at the VDC,” stated the MP.Van Raak said he was concerned about the future of the people on the islands. “In the past decades a financial world of unclear banks and special economic zones has developed on the islands, expensive consul-tants and handy fiscal experts, casinos and (illegal) lotteries. My suspicion is that this infrastructure is also used to evade taxes on a large scale and to launder money. This evil money finds its way to politics.”