Former Curacao Prime Minister Gerrit Schotte gets 3 years

POSTED: 03/13/16 7:41 PM

Passive voting rights taken away for five years

Curacao News – The Court in First Instance sentenced former Prime Minister Gerrit Schotte to 3 years of imprisonment yesterday. His girlfriend Cicely van der Dijs received an 18-month prison sentence, with 9 months suspended. The court also took Schotte’s passive voting rights away for five years and ordered him to surrender his diplomatic passport to the governor. Attorney Eldon Sulvaran announced that he will appeal the verdicts.

The court sentenced Schotte for forgery, money laundering, and the possession of frequency jammers, bribery and submitting a false report about his missing diplomatic passport.

The court ruling mentions casino owner Francesco Corallo as a co-suspect. Prosecutor’s office spokesman Norman Serphos said yesterday that a decision about prosecuting the businessman has not been taken yet. “He will first be prosecuted in Italy,” Serphos said.

The court found Schotte guilty of accepting bribes from Corallo in exchange for preferential treatment. While he was Curacao’s prime minister, Schotte contacted Italian and American authorities for information about Corallo’s background, to recommend him and to obtain a visa for him.

Schotte also made efforts to get Rudolf Baetsen appointed to the board of the Central Bank.

The court noted that the money Corallo paid through his company Bet Plus benefited Corallo and his partner van der Dijs. To cover up the bribes, the two suspects forged invoices, thereby committing forgery. These invoices were used to channel the money in a roundabout way to Schotte. “By using several foreign companies, bank accounts and bank checks and by masking the origin of the money, the suspect committed money laundering,” the court ruled.

The court agreed with the defense that the reasonable term for prosecuting the defendants had been exceeded, but added that this was mainly due to actions by the defense. The court therefore did not take this into account in its verdict.

The media-attention the case got is no reason for a lower sentence either, the court ruled. “The social position of the suspect is an understandable attention-drawing aspect. The defendants should have been aware of this when they committed the crimes.”

The court furthermore addressed Schotte’s call on his right to remain silent during the trial. “Nothing shows that the defendant acknowledges that his actions were impermissible. The court has no indications that the defendant will change his future attitude towards corruption practices and serious crimes like forgery and money laundering.

The court followed the prosecution in its demand to take away Schotte’s passive voting rights for five years. Once the verdict is irrevocable, Schotte will not be able to be elected for this period. The court ruling points in this respect to the protection of the democracy and respect for other elected parliamentarians and the electorate.

Minister Ronald Plasterk (Kingdom Relations) did not want to react to the verdict. VVD-parliamentarian André Bosman had this to say: “I am happy that he will go behind bars. Schotte is one of the people who have caused poverty in Curacao.”

Socialist Party MP Ronald van Raak:”Today the big cleanup of politics in Curacao and St. Maarten has started. Hopefully many other cases against politicians and characters from the gambling world will follow.”

Roelof van Laar (PvdA) said that it is sad that a former prime minister has been sentenced for such serious crimes. “This proves the ties between the MFK (Schotte’s party – ed.) and the mafia. At the same time I am happy that nobody, including a former prime minister, is sacrosanct. Hopefully Schotte will never return to politics.”

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