Corallo remains behind bars, for time being in St. Maarten

PHILIPSBURG–Businessman Francesco Corallo (56), who is waiting for the extradition process to be completed by the Italian authorities, is to remain behind bars at the St. Maarten Police Station, the Joint Court of Justice decided on Wednesday.

A request for Corallo’s release, filed by his attorneys Eldon Sulvaran and Sjamira Roseburg, was turned down, whereas a decision on Corallo’s possible transfer from St. Maarten to Curaçao will be made at a later date, the Court announced.

Corallo was arrested on December 13, 2016, by the Anti-corruption Taskforce TBO of the Kingdom Detectives Cooperation Team RST, at the request of Italian authorities via a so-called “Red Notice” by Interpol. He was led before the Judge of Instruction, who considered Corallo’s detention to be legitimate.

On December 19, his lawyers filed a request to suspend their client’s detention. The defence argued that based on the European Human Rights Treaty, a person may only be deprived of his liberty if this is strictly necessary and as a last resort.

The lawyers cited Corallo’s personal circumstances, among which were his delicate health and his large business interests in St. Maarten, as grounds to suspend their client’s detention.

The defence also pointed out that the extradition process usually takes a lot of time, and added that prison sentences are usually not imposed for tax crimes.

Solicitor General Leomar Angela objected to a possible release, as it was not unthinkable that the wealthy businessman would flee from the island. Angela said that Corallo owns a private jet in the United States, and was found in the possession of identity cards from Colombia and the Dominican Republic.

The Joint Court rejected the request for Corallo’s release, as it did not find the grounds for release urgent enough. The Court said Corallo was able to receive adequate medical assistance in the Police Station. Considering his large business interests, the Court said it was obvious that Corallo would appoint a deputy.

Corallo also objected to his transfer to a detention facility on Curaçao. The Joint Court did not decide on this request. The Prosecutor’s Office has until Wednesday, January 18, to present its position on the matter. Corallo’s lawyers were given until Wednesday, February 1, for their counter arguments.

The Italian authorities have not yet filed an extradition request, for which the 40-day deadline has not yet expired. The casino boss is to be prosecuted in Italy for amongst other things, tax evasion and bribery of several politicians. The Italian-born Corallo is also suspected of using his businesses for money laundering. He is presently still being held on St. Maarten and has not been transferred to any other territory of the Dutch kingdom.

Corallo was arrested along with Atlantis Group Chief Financial Officer Rudolph Baetsen (50). A number of Corallo’s belongings have been confiscated, among which are a casino, 170 apartments, bank accounts, three boats and 18 high-end watches.

The searches and arrests were part of an internationally coordinated action in Italy, St. Maarten, the Netherlands, and French Saint Martin, to combat “undermining” cross-border corruption and fraud, the Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement last month.

Source: The Daily Herald