By Ronald van Raak, Dutch Member of Parliament
Former Prime Minister Gerrit Schotte was removed from Parliament by the police last Wednesday. That politician should be in prison! Last year he was sentenced to three years in prison because he had been bribed by gambling and mafia boss Francesco Corallo.
Who in turn was recently arrested in St. Maarten because of widespread fraud and money laundering and bribing politicians. On this island, he is now awaiting extradition to Italy because he is wanted in that country for large-scale fraud and money laundering – and bribing politicians.
Along with Schotte, Amparo dos Santos was also removed from the parliament hall. He is the brother of Robbie dos Santos, a gambling boss in Curacao, who was convicted last year of large-scale fraud and money laundering. Robbie dos Santos is also a suspect in the investigation into the murder of the politician Helmin Wiels, who was killed after he wanted to ask questions about the gambling mob.
Quarrel in the mafia family
The Mafia family Corallo has a long history in St. Maarten. Father Gaetano Corallo had to leave the island because he was in jail for many years in Italy. At that time his son Francesco took over the international gambling empire and he expanded it even further. He laundered millions in especially the illegal Internet gambling – probably a lot of drug money too.
In June, however, Corallo Sr. returned to St. Maarten, to reclaim his gambling empire which his son appropriated illegally. Father Gaetano filed a lawsuit against his son Francesco. It is noteworthy that because of the father’s lawsuit the son cannot yet be extradited to Italy. Francesco also claims to have a diplomatic passport, apparently, he received this from the government of the island of Dominica which made him and extraordinary ambassador of that country.
Police in parliament
Gerrit Schotte is also – despite his conviction – still not in jail because he has appealed his case and it is not the custom in Curaçao for convicted politicians to resign on their own. Schotte was even able to participate in new elections last year which he almost won. Then a broad coalition of parties joined hands to prevent Schotte, which the judge dubbed a Corallo “puppet”, to become Prime Minister. However, the new government made the mistake to appoint a number of MPs as Minister but did not appoint new Members of Parliament simultaneously. Until Wednesday, when the new MPs took oath of office, the new coalition did not have a majority in Parliament. Schotte wanted to use the opportunity to take over the government but the police has remarkably made an end to that action.
A better future is possible
The fact that mafia bosses like Francesco Corallo and Robbie dos Santos are dealt with is the consequence of a large-scale investigation that is partly organized on our initiative in connection with the link between the underworld in the former Antilles islands, especially the gambling world, and the politics. In that investigation, our country works closely with the U.S. (for tax investigation) and Italy (for mafia). People like Francesco Corallo have a lot of money. They can hire expensive lawyers such as Gerard Spong who once filed a lawsuit against me because I called Corallo a mafia boss.
And they can hire many other expensive help like KPMG accountants, which for years has simply accepted the Corallo’s books. But it does me good that a start has been made. It is slowly becoming clear that the major villains and their political accomplices are also being tackled. People on the islands can also see that we can put an end to the colonization by the gambling mob. And a better future is possible.
By Ronald van Raak
Dutch Member of Parliament