B Plus will take case to European Court of Justice – Corallo loses license for video lottery in Italy

POSTED: 02/18/13 12:46 PM

St. Maarten / By Hilbert Haar – The situation for Francesco Corallo’s Italian company B Plus became more complicated last week after the Council of State rejected his appeal against a decision to exclude the company from the lucrative video-lottery gaming market. According to the Italian edition of the Huffington Post, the council took B Plus’ license away and it is now puzzling over what to do with the 90,000 terminals B Plus operates in Italy. On its web site, B Plus announced that it is still business as usual and that it will fight the decision at the European Court of Justice.

The Huffington Post reported that the decision to take the license from B Plus is based on “a statement from the Prefect of Rome who found that the company is at risk of infiltration by the mafia.”

That statement in turn finds its roots in an investigation in Milan into easy loans provided by the Banca Popolare di Milano (BPM) at the time when Massimo Ponzellini was its chairman. B Plus obtained a €105 million ($142 million) loan from BPM, but Corallo has always maintained that there is nothing fishy about the contract and that the loan is in good standing.

Corallo’s attorneys appealed the decision to exclude B Plus from the video-lottery market at the Council of State after the Supreme Court found that Corallo has never been a part of a conspiracy at BPM. They also argued that a complaint for so-called private corruption initially filed by BPM against Corallo has been withdrawn.

The Huffington Post wrote that the administrative court in Rome has confirmed that the license for B plus has been withdrawn.

It is unclear what is going to happen next, the Post wrote. To switch off the 90,000 video terminals B Plus operates from one day to the other could result in loss of revenue for the state of approximately €1 billion ($1.35 billion)

One possible solution is, according to the Post, to divide the B Plus machines among its competitors. Lottomatica, Sisal, Snai, Cogetech and other operators would benefit from such a move. The state could also oblige the concessionaire to keep the machine park operational during a transition period. Rigorously pulling the plug on all 90,000 machines puts 300 jobs at risk.

B Plus is not giving up the fight: on its web site the company announced that it is business as usual for the time being and that it expects that a decision by the Court of Review in Milan will clear Corallo of all wrongdoing. Attorneys for B Plus are preparing an appeal at the European Court of Justice.

It is unclear whether the troubles in Italy will have any impact on the operations of the Atlantis World Group, established in St. Maarten. When Corallo sued the Dutch state for a rectification about his alleged mafia connections, his attorneys indicated to a court in the Hague that Corallo already has had to sell his casino license in Curacao below market value, that CIBC First Caribbean Bank in St. Maarten has taken all accounts of entities where Corallo is the manager of where he is a shareholder under review and that the bank does not wish to enter into new business relationships. Also, an unidentified trust company that has been working with Corallo for more than twenty years does no longer wish to act on his behalf.

A request for a comment from Corallo, addressed to the Chief Financial Officer of the Atlantis World Group Rudolf Baetsen, went unanswered yesterday afternoon.

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