PHILIPSBURG–The National Detectives (Landsrecherche) carried out house searches on premises linked to Fransesco Corallo (54) on Friday, November 28, spokeswoman for the Prosecutor’s Office Tineke Kamps confirmed in a press release.
The searches were conducted following a legal request for assistance by the Italian Public Prosecutor’s Service on behalf of the district-directorate anti-mafia in an investigation by the Guardia di Finanze in Rome.
Corallo has been under investigation in Italy as a suspect in a fraud case, involving the Banco Popolare di Milano (BPM). The director of BPM, Massimo Ponzellini, was put under house arrest on May 29, 2012, under the suspicion of providing a loan of approximately 150 million euros to Corallo’s company Atlantis/BPlus for the purchase of new slot machines in exchange for an alleged bribe of more than one million euros.
The first search was completed in a house belonging to Corallo in Porto Cupecoy, whilst the second raid took place in the company building of Atlantis Casino in Maho. The casino hosts a couple of companies owned by Corallo, together with 48-year-old Rudolf Baetsen, the director of Atlantis Casino.
The searches were led by a Judge of Instruction.
Corallo voluntarily turned himself in to the Italian authorities on August 4, 2013, to answer questions posed by Prosecutor Roberto Pellicano in Milan in connection with alleged irregularities at BPM and Corallo’s involvement in those. The current whereabouts of Corallo, who holds a Dominican passport, are unknown.
Kamps stated that no one had been arrested in connection with the searches, but that the Prosecutor’s Office in St. Maarten could not disclose the content and background of the searches, as they were the result of an international request for assistance.
Norman Serphos of the Prosecutor’s Service in Curacao has said that the Prosecutor’s Office has used the opportunity presented by the searches to have a look for any information relating to investigation “Babel,” the large-scale fraud investigation into former Curaçao Prime Minister Gerrit Schotte and his wife. The case revolves around corruption and the influencing of politics through (illegal) donations, and Schotte was said to have received funds from Corallo in the past.
However, Serphos said that Corallo is not a suspect in the Babel case.
Jeroen Veen, lawyer for Atlantis Casino, said that he was unaware of the searches and had no information about the current whereabouts of Corallo. He pointed out that Corallo had never been a suspect in a criminal investigation in St. Maarten.
Director of Atlantis Casino Rudolf Baetsen was said by his staff to be off-island and was therefore unavailable to comment. The Daily Herald