WILLEMSTAD / PHILIPSBURG – Three judges of the court are referring to the Italian authorities’ request via the Public Prosecutor to hand over the contested casino player Francesco Corallo, 56, to Italy.
The court will announce its decision on June 20th. The request was held behind closed doors in Curaçao recently. Corallo was following the case from Philipsburg via a video conference.
Also, a request from the defense to release Corallo on bail had been treated and this decision will be made on May 23. A request based on Article 563 of the Penal Code for transferring the seized documents and goods to the Italian authorities has been mentioned, but that subject will be treated later.
The case went on for almost four hours, while Corallo’s employees were outside the courthouse protesting for his release, with slogans such as ‘Respect Human Rights, Free Francesco’.
Casino staff members said that their employer has been behind bars for five months and that is inhumane. Corallo has about 300 employees in St. Maarten.
The authorities arrested Corallo on December 13 last year based on a so-called “Red Notice” of Interpol, and on December 30, the Italian Minister of Justice requested his extradition. Italy wants to pursue Corallo according to the OM for tax evasion and money laundering practices. Corallo is suspected, among other things, to have evicted an amount of 250 million euros of tax to be paid to the Italian government. Furthermore, he is suspected to be a leader of a criminal organization and would have used his businesses for money laundering.
Attorney General (AG) Anton van der Schans requested the court in Willemstad to award the extradition request and thus give a positive opinion to the Governor of St. Maarten, who ultimately has to make the decision. According to the Public Prosecution (OM), these facts are also punishable in St. Maarten with a prison sentence of one year or more.
The defense lawyers Eldon ‘Peppie’ Sulvaran, Claudia Reijntjes-Wendenburg and two legal advisors – stressed that the latter was not correct and asked the court to declare the application inadmissible or to reject Corallo’s extradition immediately. According to the defense, Corallo is not suspected of money laundering but tax fraud. An extradition is only possible if the alleged facts in both countries (in this case St. Maarten and Italy) are punishable by law, and therefore, Corallo could not be extradited to Italy according to Reijntjes-Wendenburg.