“Corallo important person in Sicilian mafia” Schotte linked to Italian mafia

POSTED: 10/10/12 12:12 PM

GREAT BAY / WILLEMSTAD – The Antilliaans Dagblad quoted yesterday from correspondence that established a link between ousted Prime Minister Gerrit Schotte and the now fugitive Atlantis World Group and BPlus owner Francesco Corallo.

In May 2011 Schotte sent a letter to Italy’s Minister of Home Affairs Roberto Maroni with a request for “a note on the reputation that Mr. Corallo has.” The request was unusual because it should have gone through the proper channels at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign affairs. Schotte wrote that the request had to do with “a decision to give Mr. Francesco Corallo an important institutional function.”

Schotte furthermore noted that as far as he knew, Corallo was “a reputed businessman” in Italy and that he is someone of irreproachable behavior. Maroni sent his answer to the Dutch embassy in Rome, where ambassador Fons Stoelinga told Schotte in a letter dated May 26, 2011 what is what: Corallo does not have an unblemished reputation at all.

According to Stoelinga there are no criminal convictions against Corallo, but based on information from the Italian police and the Italian intelligence service “it is clear that Corallo was involved in the international drugs trade, that he was an important person in the Sicilian mafia, and that after his father Guiseppe’s arrest and conviction he laundered money through tourism activities in St. Maarten.”

That there are ties between Schotte and Corallo is not new. In October of last year it became clear that there are links between Schotte and the Atlantis World Group. A memo from Curacao’s intelligence service that was leaked to the media showed that Schotte received 2 million guilders from Robbie’s Lottery-owner Robbie dos Santos to buy a large plot of land in Playa Abou when he was commissioner of tourism. The land is near Grote Knip where Dos Santos also has a real estate project.

The memo states that Dos Santos owns the project and that it was registered under the Playa Abou Holding. The director of this holding is Rudolf Baetsen, the chief financial officer of the Atlantis World Group and Schotte’s candidate for the function of chairman of the board of the Central Bank of Curacao and St. Maarten. When this plan caused a controversy, Baetsen withdrew his candidacy.

Baetsen announced this in a letter to Schotte dated March 31, 2011, saying that he had been honored with the nomination. “I immediately resigned from my positions when I was informed about the nomination. Due to the controversy the announcement of my nomination caused, I believe it is in the best interest of our country that I respectfully decline your appointment.”

The timing of his letter to Italy’s Minister Maroni seems to suggest that Schotte subsequently made an attempt to make Corallo his next candidate for the top function on the Central bank board.

Corallo is in business with Robbie dos Santos in casinos in Curacao and in the Dominican Republic. On April 30, shortly after the fall of the first Wescot-Williams cabinet during the Calypso coup, he was spotted in the company of St. Maarten’s former Vice-Prime Minister Theo Heyliger. During the 2010 election campaign, Schotte attended one of the rallies of Heyliger’s United People’s party. It was held on the track of the unfinished ring road in the Great Salt Pond. Schotte, clad in a UP-shirt, endorsed Heyliger’s party, saying that the new countries St. Maarten and Curacao “must accept and continue to live with the reality that family bonds tie the islands together.”

Corallo is rumored to be the financial backer of Schotte’s MFK-party and also of Heyliger’s UP.

The Italian authorities issued in May an arrest warrant for Corallo linked to a scandal at the Banco Popolare di Milan. In August, Corallo appeared on the wanted list of Interpol.

He has since gone underground, though he has denied all allegations against him. Via his attorneys Corallo has offered the authorities in St. Maarten to come in on the condition that he would not be locked up in prison. Attorney General Dick Piar turned that offer down.

In an interview with the British industry magazine G3, Corallo explained in September that the charges against him in Italy are inspired by competitors in the lucrative Italian gaming market.

In the Netherlands, socialist Party MP Ronald van Raak picked up the story, claiming that he possesses confidential documents that confirm Gerrit Schotte’s ties with “a prominent member of the Italian mafia.” He told NRC Handelsblad yesterday that the Ministry of Home Affairs has known since last year about this. He wants to know from Home Affairs Minister Liesbeth Spies why she did nothing with the information and he wants to prevent Schotte from ever becoming a minister again.

The Telegraaf reported that the correspondence Van Raak possesses shows that Corallo is one of the large financial backers of the Schotte election campaign.

In the G3 interview, Corallo denies that he has anything to do with the mafia and that he has cut all ties with his father, who was sentenced to 7.5 years of imprisonment in the eighties of last century for organized crime.

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