Opinion: The cesspit called Curacao

POSTED: 10/19/11 6:47 PM

The cesspit called Curacao stinks so bad, people smell it in St. Maarten. Assuming that the leaked memo from the security service in Willemstad is genuine, the Schotte-government starts looking more what Dutch politicians like to call damaged goods.
In September of last year, there was already slight bewilderment in St. Maarten when Gerrit Schotte showed up at a political rally of the United People’s party of our current Vice-Prime Minister Theo Heyliger.
Then there were the persistent rumors (mind you: rumors) that the UP’s financial backer is the Atlantis World Group, or, put bluntly, its top man Francesco Corallo. Nobody ever produced solid proof, but the rumors somehow stuck.
Then there was the surprise candidacy of Rudolf Baetsen, the Chief Financial Officer of the Atlantis World Group for the position of Chairman of the Board of the Central Bank of Curacao and St. Maarten. Baetsen was not St. Maarten’s candidate, no, he was Curacao’s candidate for the position.
The nomination fell flat due to the fact that many people thought putting a casino executive in a high position at the Central Bank was a bit too much. Baetsen, who had first resigned from his casino jobs after he was informed about the nomination, withdrew his candidacy in what is probably the most humble letter ever written. He also immediately got his job back at Atlantis.
Now we learn from an investigation by our colleagues at the Antilliaans Dagblad that Baetsen is the director of the Playa Abou Holding in Curacao. That company belongs to Robbie dos Santos, the owner of Robbie’s Lottery.
Dos Santos has a real estate project in Playa Abou; he also gave 2 million guilders to Prime Minister Gerrit Schotte to buy a large piece of land in this area.
So the players in this field so full of mystique are Prime Minister Gerrit Schotte, Atlantis top dog Francesco Corallo and his financial man Rudolf Baetsen and lottery owner Robbie dos Santos, with St. Maarten’s Vice-Prime Minister Theo Heyliger safely in the background.
The intriguing security service memo that revealed most of this mentioned that Schotte is maintaining close contacts with “characters like Francesco Corallo” in St. Maarten, suggesting without explicitly saying this in so many words that contacts with the Atlantis boss are of a dubious nature.
That figures: the Atlantis World Group is the biggest concessionaire in Italy entrusted with the control of the slot machine industry in that country. Atlantis is mentioned in a report by the Italian Audit Chamber that discovered fraud with these slot machines amounting to $123 billion. The Italian tax inspectorate claims $45 billion from Atlantis.
Corallo’s father Gaetano was arrested in 1988 in Miami; according to a report in the Miami Herald he was on Italy’s most wanted list since 1983 as a suspected mafia leader. The newspaper reported that Corallo organized and directed a gang of thieves that attempted to gain control of Italian casinos.
Are this all innuendos? Each part of this puzzle on its own does not add up to much, but taken all together they show a pattern of contacts and interwoven interests that is to clear to ignore. In spite of this, the parliament and the government in Willemstad maintain that the Rosenmöller report that examined integrity issues is basically a piece of neo-colonial crap that is not even good enough to use as toilet paper.
So if it is up to the “honorable” members of the parliament in Curacao, or to the “honorable” ministers in Schotte’s cabinet, there will be no further investigation. Parliament and cabinet know, or at least they feel, that they are able to take this position without having to fear any consequences, because the Kingdom Council of Ministers does not have enough backbone to invoke article 43 of the Kingdom Charter.

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