Wiels says Curacao dances to the tune of St. Maarten casino owners

POSTED: 03/29/11 2:57 AM

Controversy over Central Bank appointments for Richardson and Baetsen

WILLEMSTAD – All seven candidates for the Council of Commissioners of the Central Bank of Curacao and St. Maarten have been approved by the government accountant bureau foundation Soab. The advice about the candidates from St. Maarten was sent to the government in Philipsburg yesterday, but Amigoe reported that they have been vetted. The three candidates are Robbie Ferron, Ralph Richardson and Marciella Illidge.

Curacao’s candidates are Nelson Navarro, Glenn Camelia, Renny Maduro and Rudolf Baetsen. The latter will be the council’s chairman.

Last week there was confusion about who had nominated Baetsen, the Chief financial officer of the Atlantis Casino in Cupecoy. Finance Minister Hiro Shigemoto said last week that the government had nominated accountant Maarten Hassink and that he was unaware of Baetsen’s candidacy.

Amigoe reported that, given the decision now taken, that it is clear that Hassink’s name was not forwarded to the Soab for vetting and that therefore St. Maarten had withdrawn its own candidate for the chairmanship. Both countries must agree on the candidate for the function of chairman.

Because the Central Bank does not fall under the corporate governance code, the Soab-advice about the candidates is not public. The governor of Curacao has to appoint the board members. As representative of the Kingdom, the governor has the authority to order a separate investigation into the proposed candidates.

There is a controversy about Baetsen’s candidacy, after it became public in Curacao that he is the financial director of the Atlantis World Group, the owner of several casinos in St. Maarten, Curacao and the Dominican Republic. “With the appointment of Baetsen, the casino world has entered the realm of the Central Bank,” the Amigoe wrote.

The newspaper also cast doubts over the appointment of former Lt. Governor Ralph Richardson because of his conviction for fraud in the nineties of last century.

While these facts were no reason for the Soab to issue a negative advice, Pueblo Soberano is not happy with the two candidates. PS-leader Helmin Wiels was not happy with a joint Central Bank for Curacao and St. Maarten to begin with. He has always been critical of St. Maarten’s financial position, and now he is convinced that Philipsburg will be put under supervision of the Netherlands.

“Richardson is a former convict while Baetsen’s reputation is questionable given the sector he is working in.”

Wiels cannot imagine that the governor will approve the candidacy of Richardson and Baetsen. He warns about the Central Bank’s reputation, locally and internationally. “Members of the Board of Commissioners must be beyond reproach.”

Members of the Dutch parliament are subdued in their reactions. CDA-spokesman Bas Jan van Bochove says that the appointments are first and foremost the responsibility of St. Maarten and Curacao. “Commissioners of all organizations, and certainly those of the Central Bank, must be beyond reproach. But this discussion has to take place in the islands. Actually they have to prevent that these discussions are necessary,” Van Bochove said. “There is no reason for us to start asking questions now, but we are of course entangled in the discussion about the guarantee function of Article 43 of the Kingdom charter. Situations like this keep piling up and there will come a moment when this becomes an issue.”

Socialist Party MP Ronald van Raak said that he does not want to get involved with every appointment. “I do not want to get in the way of the Island Council,” he said, apparently ignorant of the fact that the autonomous countries now have their own parliament. “But I do spend time on good governance and I want to know from the Minister if he is okay with these appointments and if the procedure has been followed correctly. We’re keeping an eye on it.”

PAR MP David Dick told Amigoe that Baetsen’s appointment is another proof that the government in Curacao acts under the instructions of the casinos in St. Maarten. Because the government has not been screened, Dick said that there is a suspicion of ties between the government and the casino world in St. Maarten.

Dick also referred to the problems in the national security service and the changes in the management at UTS as proof that the Schotte-government is taking its cue from St. Maarten. “It is sad that Schotte, Wiels and Charles Cooper are selling out Curacao in such a way to the casino owners in St. Maarten.”

The Atlantis World Group became the center of a controversy in November of last year when stories surfaced about a scandal with the supervision of slot machines in Italy. The Atlantis World Group is the largest concessionaire in Italy charged with the supervision of slot machine operation. The Italian Finance Ministry was seeking compensation for $45 billion in evaded taxes and fines.

Rudolf Baetsen told this newspaper at the time in a reaction to the story in Dutch and Italian newspapers: “For clarity sake the St Maarten based Atlantis World Group is not involved in operating state concessions in Italy and has not been presented with any claims for alleged unpaid taxes and fines.”

After this newspaper published a follow up story that linked Atlantis top executives like Francisco Corallo to his father who has a conviction for being a member of a criminal organization, the casino placed full-page ads in the Daily Herald in an attempt at damage control. It also demanded a rectification, but stood down after this newspaper defended its position.

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