‘Babel’ appeal to High Court

WILLEMSTAD–Former Curaçao Prime Minister Gerrit Schotte and his life partner Cicely van der Dijs have filed an appeal with the High Court in the Netherlands against Friday’s ruling of the Court of Justice in their “Babel” case. A three-judge panel confirmed Schotte’s earlier sentence by the Court of First Instance of three years in prison and a five-year prohibition to stand candidate in elections. He was convicted of taking a bribe, money-laundering and forgery. The charge of having falsely reported his diplomatic passport stolen was dropped, but this did not change the sentence.

However, a request for the current parliamentarian’s preventive arrest by the prosecution pending a possible further appeal was not honoured. Van der Dijs did get a sentence reduction because she was no longer found guilty of forgery. The businesswoman received 15 months in prison of which six suspended, rather than the original 18 and nine months respectively. Schotte was prime minister of Curaçao from 2010 to 2012, the first one after the former island territory of the dismantled Netherlands Antilles (NA) became an autonomous country within the Dutch Kingdom on 10-10-10.

After the preceding election his party Movementu Futuro Kòrsou (MFK) formed a government with Pueblo Soberano and MAN. In 2012 two coalition members declared themselves independent in Parliament due to the unbalanced budget. Having lost the required majority support Schotte at first refused to go, but ultimately resigned. According to the Prosecutor’s Office, the MFK leader received money from Italian casino boss in St. Maarten Francesco Corallo to finance his election campaign. In return, Corallo would have far-reaching political influence and a determining role in the party, even regarding the appointment of government ministers and board members of the Central Bank.

Schotte was sentenced for this by the Court of First Instance last year to three years in prison and suspension of his passive voting rights for five years. The politician filed an appeal, which meant the execution of his sentence was delayed.

This allowed him to still take part in the election of October 2016. His party ended up in the opposition benches, but the new Koeiman Cabinet that was formed fell after just seven weeks.

Two members of Pueblo Soberano, the party of murdered politician Helmin Wiels, declared themselves against the MAN-led coalition after they were convinced by Schotte.

However, Prime Minister Hensley Koeiman not only resigned, having lost his majority support, but dissolved the legislature and called snap elections for April 28, 2017.

This went against the plans of Schotte, who had formed a new majority in Parliament.

They demanded that the early election be suspended with a motion adopted in March.

However, Governor Lucille George-Wout, backed by the Kingdom Council of Ministers in The Hague, did not budge. The meanwhile-installed interim government headed by MFK’s Gilmar Pisas then made an appeal to the European Court, but that did not work either.

Curaçao went to the polls again and MFK was once more side-lined. The biggest party PAR signed an agreement with Koeiman’s MAN and the new PIN of Suzy Camelia-Römer, keeping Schotte’s party out of government.

Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/67910-babel-appeal-to-high-court