Published On: Wed, Jan 29th, 2014

Italian documents Corallo point to former Prime Minister Schotte

Gerrit SchotteROMA, WILLEMSTAD - Justice in Italy confirms that they have found some incriminating documents in Francesco Corallo’s possession, linking the former Prime Minister of Curacao, Gerrit Schotte with the mafia boss. This is according to Korant Veridiko. Corallo was arrested in August on suspicion of fraud at Banco Popolare. Apparently there are 150 million euros involved.

In a raid on the home of former Prime Minister in Willemstad, his office in the parliament building and the MFK party headquarters there were probably some documents found that indicate a link between Corallo and Schotte. The Public Prosecutor in Willemstad, at the mouth of press spokesman Norman Serphos indicated that they will not give any comments on ongoing investigations. The Italian media have so far made ​​no mention of the relevant documents.

Casino owner

Francesco Corallo is a well-known casino owner in the Caribbean. He owns the Atlantis World Group, which operates several casinos in the region. In St. Maarten there are the Atlantis World Casino in Cupe Coy, Paradise Plaza in Simpson Bay and Beach Plaza in Philipsburg. The company also owns the Paradise Plaza Casino in Curacao and three casinos in the Dominican Republic. Since June 1, 2011, Corallo’s holding company is registered as a Cypriot company.

Central Bank of Curaçao and St. Maarten

In the spring of 2011, Corallo was in the news on the islands of Curacao and St. Maarten. Baetsen Rudolf, CFO of the Atlantis World Group, was supported by the Prime Minister of Curacao as possible candidate for Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Central Bank of the two islands. Many saw this as a part of Corallo's attempts to turn things into his favor to make an end to the unwelcome gambling tax. The islands also feared the influence of the Italian Mafia, which Corallo is widely known for.

Corallo ambassador FAO

A report from the Italian Bank in June 2011 provided the basis for a thorough investigation for certain loans to gaming companies, including those of Corallo. In raids in November, he relied on his diplomatic immunity by virtue of his ambassadorship to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on behalf of Dominica. At its headquarters in Rome, however, they had no ambassador by that name. Atlantis / Betplus then gave a press release stating that Corallo gave up his immunity to cooperate with the judicial investigation.

According to the Italian Foreign Minister, he is not even an ambassador, as he does business in Italy, and “it is inappropriate in our country as someone with business interests also enjoys diplomatic immunity.”

Italian arrest warrant

On June 2012, the Italian tax police arrested the former chairman of Banca Popolare di Milano (BPM) in connection with an investigation into questionable loans from this bank.

Massimo Ponzellini (1950), which left the Milanese bank in late 2011 and is now chairman of a construction company Impregilo, was one of three persons for which an arrest warrant was issued because of suspicion of involvement in a criminal organization.

The other two arrest warrants were related to Francesco Corallo, who is considered by the investigators as the owner of Atlantis-BPplus, and Antonio Canna Lira, also active in the  gambling business and closely related to Ponzellini.

Bribes

Milan prosecutors hypothesized that there are very substantial loans provided, which departed from the evaluation procedures at the bank in exchange for 5.7 million in bribes. In searches in offices and homes owned by Ponzellini in November 2011, it proved that one of the suspicious loans was 148 million Euros to Atlantis BPplus. This was granted after the company was granted a contract with the Amministrazione Autonoma dei Monopoli di Stado (AAMS). AAMS’responsibilities are overseeing gambling and issuing permits.

By Dick Draayer (Persbureau Curacao)

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