Van Raak: “I may no longer call Francesco Corallo a mob boss”
THE HAGUE - I may not call Francesco Corallo a 'mafia boss' anymore. This is what the Caribbean casino proprietor wrote to me last week. Through his lawyer. I do not have Corallo’s address and I do not know where he is right now. A correspondence through lawyers I believe is impersonal, so we should not introduce any debates. Therefore, I will explain how the misunderstanding came to be.
With a statement the Italian Ministry of Internal Affairs, in May 2011, explained that Corallo “was involved in international drug trafficking” and “was an important person involved in the Sicilian Mafia”.
That he has started with a tourist center in St. Maarten, which is used for money laundering. This information, according to the Ministry, has been confirmed by the Italian police and the Italian intelligence service.
The Dutch Parliament, at my request, had a meeting with Minister Plasterk about the links between the underworld and Curaçao and Sint Maarten.
The reason for this debate is my suspicion that many politicians on the islands are paid by the gambling industry, in which Corallo plays a major role. Including through the Atlantis World Group, which operates casinos in the Caribbean. But also through (illegal) lotteries.
At this moment there is a lawsuit against former Prime Minister Gerrit Schotte (MFK) in Curaçao, because leading up to the 2010 elections, when Curaçao became an autonomous country within the Kingdom, Schotte accepted large amounts of money. The prosecutor stated that the gifts were made to Schotte:
“So that Corallo and his companies would be favored; secret government information would be provided to Corallo; Corallo’s influence would be established in the Curaçao government through the newly established political party MFK; Corallo would be recommended internationally by Curaçao; MFK would do its utmost for Corallo or persons of his company to be engaged in important institutional functions.
What those “important institutional functions” exactly are we do not know with certainty. Possibly an important function within the Central Bank, or a diplomatic function. In any case, a certificate of good conduct was needed. The Italian Minister of the Interior did not want to give this. But he did give a warning that this is “an important person involved in the Sicilian Mafia”.
Also in a report made by the secret service of Curaçao (VDC) on the screening of Schotte and several other ministers, the agency refers to their links to Corallo and the 'Italian mafia'. Disclosure of this screening spawned a massive robbery of information at the Intelligence Agency of Curaçao.
I am committed to the reputation of the Caribbean casino bosses, but even more with the future of the population on the islands. A financial world of opaque banks and special economic zones, expensive consultants and convenient tax specialists, casinos and (illegal) lotteries have been developed on these islands.
My strong suspicion is that this infrastructure is used to evade taxes on a large scale and money laundering. Curaçao and Sint Maarten seem like the washing machines of the Caribbean, where drug money is laundered. That ‘bad’ money finds its way into politics.
In his letter Corallo states that I, as a politician, should be cautious in making statements. But as a politician, it is my job to denounce (possible) abuses.
In the parliamentary debate, I hope to start with the detection of ‘bad’ money and tackling bad politicians. If Corallo is right and all accusations against him are unfounded, he will have no objection to that investigation.