Analysis Antilliaans Dagblad: Francesco Corallo’s attorneys manipulated mafia ruling

POSTED: 02/18/14 11:32 AM

St. Maarten – The doubts about the existence of a recent court ruling that bans Italian authorities from linking B Plus and Atlantis World Group owner Francesco Corallo with the mafia gained momentum yesterday with the publication of a thorough analysis of the case in the Antilliaans Dagblad. To this day, B Plus, Corallo and his financial man Rudolf Baetsen have not reacted to requests by this newspaper and by the Antilliaans Dagblad (AD) for a copy of the original court ruling. The AD’s conclusion: that ruling does not exist.

In its analysis, the AD refers to a court ruling from 2011. “That ruling has been manipulated by Corallo’s gambling imperium BPlus by leaving out large parts and by deleting certain sentences and parts of sentences, and even the date.”

Last week BPlus sent a press release to the media, but when the Ad approached the company for a copy of the ruling, all it received in the end was a summary.

This summary does not contain a date, not an essential part of the conclusion from the Italian court. According to the AD’s analysis, the summary consists of “three pieces of text, thirteen selectively chosen sentences, from a ruling that is seven pages long.”

The AD has a copy of the 2011 court ruling, and writes that Gerrit Schotte – former prime minister of Curacao and leader of opposition party MFK – mailed it to third parties to support the press release.

The newspaper compared the original ruling from 2011 with the summary BPlus sent out. “The selected sentence-parts from the ruling are identical, but it is not complete by a long shot and the sentences seem to be fit for actuality; there are in a way timeless and could have applied today.”

The 2011 court ruling however refers to a complaint by Francesco Corallo and his brother Carmelo Maurizio. The Italian DIA – an agency specialized in mafia-related crime – linked Corallo in a 2009 report to the Santapaola family. BPlus deleted this part from the summary it sent to the AD.

“The media and the public were apparently consciously wrong-footed last week,” the newspaper writes. “The message is that even the DIA and the ministry of home affairs are no longer allowed to link Corallo to the mafia, while the largest newspaper in Italy – La Reppublica – has to publish this. So all other had better pay attention in the future as well.”

Of course, there was also another ruling between 2011 and 2014 – this one from the court in The Hague, where Corallo had demanded a rectification in the largest Dutch newspaper – the Telegraaf. The Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs and Kingdom relations had to distance themselves in that rectification from reports that depicted Corallo as a mafia gangster.

On January 30, 2013, the court ruled against Corallo and the ministries did not have to rectify anything.

This controversy began after then Prime Minister Gerrit Schotte requested a statement about Corallo’s behavior from the Italian Ministry of Home Affairs, without informing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The Hague. Schotte wanted to appoint Corallo to a high function in Curacao – of which the nature has never been revealed. At the time, Schotte had already been linked to transfers of large amounts of money for Corallo’s BPlus. Reports about these transactions from the Financial Intelligence Unite (MOT) had been leaked to the media.

The Italian ministry did not play Schotte’s game and stuck to the rules of diplomacy by contacting the Kingdom embassy in Rome. The Italians asked the embassy to inform Schotte that it could not honor its request (to issue a statement of good behavior for Corallo) because the casino-boss – in Italy sometimes called “the king of the slot machines” – was known to the police and to intelligence services for his involvement in the drugs trade, money laundering and contacts with the Sicilian mafia.

The embassy sent this information in a sealed envelope via diplomatic mail to Schotte in Willemstad. “Almost one-and-a-half year later, shortly before the elections in 2012 – the information became public,” the AD writes. “The letter from the embassy was considered proof that the former prime minister, as had been suspected for a long time, maintained special ties with underworld characters.”

The paper points out that Schotte was labeled as a suspect in a criminal investigation two months ago. Following a time-honored Caribbean tradition, Schotte has refused to give up his seat in Parliament under the current conditions.

Corallo was not amused with the publicity that followed and therefore he summoned the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to distance itself from the claim that he was supposedly a member of the mafia and that he was involved in criminal activities. The ministry responded in style that there was nothing to rectify, whereupon Corallo went to court.

Corallo’s attorneys argued that the civil servants that had provided the contested information were not authorized to do so and that the Netherlands should have verified the information, realizing that it could be damaging to the reputation of their client.

The court did not accept this point of view: “Nothing shows why there should be doubts about the authorities (of the civil servants that supplied the information – ed.). There is also no proof that the state played a role in making the letter public. The state may rely on the fact that a letter sent via diplomatic mail remains in confidential hands. The state’s role was no more than forwarding the information provided by Italy to Prime Minister Schotte.”

The AD notes in its analysis that the court already then referred to the court ruling of September 9, 2011 of the Tribunale di Roma. That ruling states that Corallo has been linked incorrectly to the Santapaola-family on a public website of the Italian Ministry of Home Affairs.” Nothing more, nothing less, the AD adds drily.

One would almost forget that Corallo’s troubles started after a red flag went up at the Italian Central Bank in 2010 during an investigation at the Banco Popolare di Milano. The investigators linked a huge loan from the bank to BPlus and its beneficial owner Francesco Corallo, to the latters’ father Gaetano, whose links to the Santapaola mafia clan have been well documented in Italian media. Gaetano Corallo – a friend of Nitto Santapaola – spent 7.5 years in prison for criminal activities, though the link to the mafia was deleted from his sentence. That enabled Corallo to deny his father’s link to the mafia in 2010 in full-page ads in the Daily Herald as a reaction to this newspaper reporting about the banking scandal. Nitto Santapaola was involved in the 1992 murder of anti-mafia prosecutor Giovanni Falcone.

 

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