THE HAGUE–Member of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) wants to know whether casino bosses Francesco Corallo of St. Maarten, Rodolfo “Rudy” Pizziolo, Robbie dos Santos and Jacobo “Cocochi” Prins of Curaçao are being investigated, criminally or otherwise.
Van Raak on Friday submitted a number of written questions to Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk in which the Member of Parliament (MP) seeks further information about the reported close ties between the government and the (partly illegal) gambling industry in Curaçao. In February this year, Van Raak had also submitted questions on the same topic.
Several of Van Raak’s questions that he submitted on Friday were related to the gambling blog of the website “Knipselkrant Curaçao” (www..info) which on Thursday published an elaborate story on gambling in Curaçao and the apparent ties with Curaçao politics.
In the blog, Corallo of the Altantis Group/Bplus and Pizziolo, owner of several casinos in Curaçao, were referred to as the two “Sicilian casino kings” who topped the short list of the most influential casino owners. Also appearing on that list were Curaçao casino owners Prins and Dos Santos. The latter is also the owner of Robbie’s Lottery and Smart Play which are active in St. Maarten as well.
Van Raak wanted to know whether Corallo, Pizziolo, Prins, Dos Santos and his brother, Curaçao’s former Finance Minister George Jamaloodin were the subject of any (criminal) investigations at this time, or in the past.
According to the Knipselkrant Curaçao blog, it was hard to put a financial figure on the Curaçao gambling industry. A totalling of the figures of the Curaçao Gaming Control Board, the lottery foundation Wega di Number Korsou and the estimation of murdered politician Helmin Wiels, on the SMS lotteries show an annual turn-over of more than NAf. 825 million in Curaçao’s gambling sector.
“Either Curaçao residents are the most gambling addicted people in the world, or more probably, large scale money laundering is involved,” the blog stated. Official figures of the Central Bureau of Statistics or Central Bank of Curaçao and St. Maarten on this sector were not available.
The blog said it was able to confirm Van Raak’s suspicions that the Curaçao gambling sector was probably larger than the tourism sector and also possibly larger than the financial services sector. The mentioned gambling sector figure is most likely even higher, because it didn’t include the illegal lotteries and sports betting, which are also operational on the island.
Van Raak asked how many sports betting companies were operating in the special economic free zones in Curaçao, what amounts were involved, how much profit was being made, how much taxes were being paid and who was supervising these companies.
The MP wanted to know which politicians and political parties received money from companies that are active in the (illegal) gambling industry and how much money was involved. He asked if it was correct that the MFK party of former Prime Minister Gerrit Schotte had its own lottery to raise funds and how much money was involved.
Van Raak further sought clarity on reports that the Curaçao Government planned to legalise the SMS lotteries of UTS and Robbie’s Lottery. He asked about the profits of these illegal SMS lotteries and the alleged relation between the SMS lotteries and the accountancy company KPMG via UTS.
According to Van Raak, the Kingdom Government has a role in tackling the issue of the reported relations between the gambling industry and local politics, since these practices infringe on good governance in Curaçao.
Plasterk stated in his reply to Van Raak’s previous questions early March that the Curaçao Public Prosecutor’s Office and Dutch authorities did have attention for financial-economic crime, including money laundering, but that supervision on the gambling industry was a responsibility of the local government and not of the Netherlands.
“Why do you believe that the possible influence of the (illegal) gambling industry on government is an autonomous affair of the Country Curaçao? What responsibility do you see for the Kingdom Council of Ministers to ensure good governance in Curaçao,” Van Raak asked Plasterk.
The MP would like to have answers to his questions before the general debate with Minister Plasterk on March 31 about the state of government in Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten. This debate was requested by Van Raak.