“Not a member of criminal association” Italian Supreme Court clears Corallo’s name

POSTED: 02/11/13 2:52 PM

St. Maarten / By Hilbert Haar – The Italian Supreme Court has cleared Atlantis World Group and B Plus Giocolegale owner Francesco Corallo of all allegations against him related to the Banca Popolare di Milano investigation into questionable loans. “Supreme Court puts Corallo back in the game,’ the Italian edition of the Huffington Post reported on Friday, adding that he is ruled not to be a part of the Ponzellini criminal association.

According to the Huffington Post, the Supreme Court annulled the arrest warrant for Corallo. On Friday the highest court in Italy released the motivations for its decision. It has sent the case back to the Court of Freedom.

The prosecutor in Milan that is investigating irregularities with business loans at Banca Popolare (BPM) on Thursday ordered the arrest of Battista Onofrio Amaruso, an attorney specialized in banking legislation. He is accused of being the go-between for private bribes between the bank’s business committee – headed by Massimo Ponzellini – and companies that benefited from easy loans.

The next day, the Supreme Court published its considerations and conclusions for voiding the arrest warrant against Corallo. The most important conclusion: if there was a business committee at BPM at all, a criminal conspiracy that controlled BPM-loans, Corallo was not a member of it.

When the accusations against Corallo surfaced, his company B Plus Giocolegale was excluded from participating in a tender for now concessions for video lottery terminals. B Plus is the largest concessionaire in Italy with around 15,000 licenses; the BPM-investigation put that part of Corallo’s business in jeopardy. Tomorrow an Italian administrative court will have to decide on B Plus’ appeal against its exclusion from the tender for new concessions.

When Corallo attempted in vain to obtain a rectification from the Dutch state in January for allegations that he has ties with the Sicilian mafia, court documents revealed that he also lost his casino license in Curacao and that he had to sell the license below market value to a third party.

The Italian Supreme Court ruled that it does not understand what Corallo’s contribution to BPM’s conspiracy to commit a crime would have been. “He was the bearer of interests that were entirely independent of those of the alleged associates,” the court ruled. Those associates are Massimo Ponzellini and his confidante Antonio Cannalire.

“Corallo’s only interest was to get two loans for his company B Plus. He had no other interest in common with the alleged conspiracy,” the Huffington Post reported.

The Supreme Court furthermore wondered why Corallo had been singled out, while the owners of other companies that also received loans provided by the alleged business committee, were  left alone.

The Supreme Court also made mince meat of the allegation that the BPM business committee had conspired to influence the legislation that governs slot machines in Italy in Corallo’s favor. “This is only an investigative hypothesis and nothing more,” the court ruled.

The Supreme Court acknowledged links between Ponzellini and Marco Milanese, a member of the PDL-party. That Milanese sponsored this preferential treatment “is a result only of rumors or types of sources like I was told by someone that I do not remember,” the court noted.

The Court of Freedom will now look again at the case. Unless the prosecutor presents new elements, the allegation of conspiracy against Corallo may soon be dropped, the Huffington Post wrote.

The second complaint against Corallo is based on article 2635 of the civil code and concerns so-called private corruption. This is however – and Corallo has pointed this out before in his defense against the allegation – an offense that can only be prosecuted based on a complaint. Corallo has always maintained that the bank has nothing to complain about because the contested loan is in good standing. The Huffington Post reports that BPM has withdrawn its complaint against Corallo and that his company has repaid €25 million ($33.75 million) of the balance of this loan. “Without a complaint, the prosecutor cannot proceed,” the article states.
The prosecutor is not giving up without a fight though: on Thursday he charged that BPM’s business committee and B Plus lobbied the board of directors of the bank to withdraw the complaint.

This allegation is based on a letter B Plus sent to the bank the day after the state monopoly that deals with the video lottery terminal-concessions had excluded B Plus from the tender for new concessions. In its letter, B Plus complains about the damage the company suffers from the complaint filed by the bank. It also points out that the chairman of the BPM-board, Andrea Bonomi, has a conflict of interest. Through the investment fund Investindustrial  Bonomi participates in Snai and Cogetech, two direct competitors of B Plus.

If the prosecutor considers this letter an attempt to apply undue pressure on the board of directors, such a conclusion would be “unfounded and unjust,” attorneys for B Plus said. They argue that the company has only worked “for the legitimate protection of its interest.”

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