Opinion: Setting the record straight

POSTED: 02/21/14 12:00 AM

The Daily Herald licked the feet of gambling mogul Francesco Corallo yesterday by devoting almost half a page to the Italian-Dutch businessman’s defense against reporting by the Antilliaans Dagblad and the Today Newspaper. “Corallo sets the record straight” is the headline about the article.

Corallo admits in the article that his company B Plus never mentioned the date of a court ruling that supposedly forbids the Italian Minister of Home Affairs and the DIA (the Italian anti-mafia law enforcement agency) to link his name to the mafia. The court also ordered that the ruling be published in the largest Italian newspaper, La Reppublica.

The Antilliaans Dagblad analyzed the copy of the verdict it has in its possession and compared it to an earlier ruling from 2011. The conclusion was that the summary of the “new” ruling the paper obtained is a “cleverly edited version of the 2011 ruling.”

This newspaper approached the press agency of B Plus (Ufficio Stampa) with a request for a copy of the ruling, but we never received a reply. A similar request addressed to Atlantis World Group Chief Financial Officer Rudolf Baetsen also met with silence.

It is not surprising that Corallo chose the Daily Herald to make a statement, because that is where he spends his advertising dollars for his casinos in St. Maarten. The 2011 ruling – dated September 9 – of the Tribunale di Roma only states that Corallo has been linked incorrectly to the Santapaola-family on a public website of the Italian Ministry of Home Affairs. The Santapaola’s are a Sicilian mafia clan, responsible amongst others for blowing up anti-mafia prosecutor Giuseppe Falcone in 1992.

Corallo claims in the Daily Herald article that the DIA-report from 2009 that links him to the drugs trade, money laundering and the mafia is “untrue, unfounded and defaming.” That information became public in 2012 in Curacao when someone leaked the contents of diplomatic mail to MFK-leader Gerrit Schotte. Corallo went to court in The Hague demanding a rectification, but he lost on all counts.

In the Daily Herald story, Corallo also revisits his so-called “acquittal” of falsely claiming an ambassadorship to the Food and Agriculture Organization FAO. He claims to have sent this newspaper a copy of that court ruling, “but to no avail.”

However, all we ever received was a one-page document, indeed from the Tribunale di Roma and signed by Judge Giacomo Ebner. The test consists of seven lines, but whether they refer to Corallo is anybody’s guess because nowhere on the document his name is mentioned.

The document does state that Judge Ebner acquits someone “from the crime ascribed because the crime does not exist.”

However, this newspaper has clearly established in an article published on August 7, 2012 that Corallo’s claim to the ambassadorship is bogus. When on November 10, 2011 the Guardia di Finanza, the Finance Unit of the tax police in Rome, raided private homes and nine company headquarters in Rome, Milan and Bologna, the home and office of Francesco Corallo were among the targets.

Corallo claimed at the time diplomatic immunity, saying that he was an ambassador to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization FAO for the Commonwealth of Dominica.

In a statement issued by Betplus to Italian media shortly after the raid, the company said that Corallo had later given up his immunity status to cooperate with the investigation. When this newspaper approached the FAO headquarters for a comment on Corallo’s status, the organization said it did not know him. “This man is not an FAO goodwill ambassador.”

Immediately afterwards the FAO press office sent a statement to Italian media, stating explicitly that Corallo “is not the organization’s permanent ambassador for the Commonwealth of Dominica.” The FAO also noted that its goodwill ambassadors (like singer Celine Dion) do not have diplomatic immunity.

So far for setting the record straight. We are still waiting for a reply from the Ufficio Stampa in Rome and from Atlantis World Groups’ CFO Rudolf Baetsen to our requests for proper information. When we receive it, we will be more than happy to publish it. So far however, the whole matter is under a cloud of suspicion that will not go away before all information has been provided.

For good measure, we also approached La Reppublica in Italy with questions about the publication of the contested court ruling. The answer to this request is still pending.

Oh, one more thing: contrary to what Corallo likes to believe and to spread around, this newspaper does not support any political party.


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