Ronald van Raak: Will Curaçao become a criminal state?

4 October 2016

Ronald van Raak: Will Curaçao become a criminal state?

The former Prime Minister of Curaçao, Gerrit Schott has been sentenced to three years in prison. Yet he has managed to still participate in the upcoming elections and according to the polls, his party will come out as the biggest one. This means that the possibility is there that this coming Wednesday a convicted felon, a puppet of the gambling industry, will be back in parliament.

After that day, the man, who as Prime Minister, has brought the Mafia into power, has financially ruined the public companies, and who has pursued a policy of fear and intimidation, may again form a government. Then we have a country within the Dutch Kingdom that is run by a criminal. How did it ever come to this? And what do these elections mean for the Netherlands and the future of the Kingdom?

The charms of a charlatan

During the first visit by Gerrit Schotte to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament I saw it all, this man was a crook. Curaçao became an autonomous country within the Kingdom on October 10, 2010. The Netherlands had offered a lot of help including the payment of 1 billion euros of the island’s debt. The new Prime Minister Gerrit Schotte was hailed everywhere as a symbol of a new generation of politicians who would lead the island to a better future. MPs for the Dutch parties CDA, D66, Groen Links, and the Christian Union, all fell for the charms of this charlatan. The Labour Party even went with Schotte on a tour through Amsterdam, hoping to win the votes of Antilleans for themselves. Anyone who can see, saw that this man was no good. But political correctness can apparently make one blind.

Sputter in the corridors

After the Gerrit Schotte visit in 2010, it still sputtered in the corridors. Many other MPs were upset that I questioned this charming Prime Minister about his party financing because I wanted to know who had paid his expensive campaign. I also remember being really angry because they had allowed criminal to become Prime Minister. The country Curaçao had to begin on the symbolic date of ’10-10-10’. The background check on the new ministers wasn’t even finished yet. When Gerrit Schotte found out that the secret service had confidential information about his contacts with the gambling mob, the Prime Minister was not afraid to completely destroy this service using the same mob.

The links with the mafia

In March this year the judge sentenced Gerrit Schotte to three years in prison because he was bribed by Francesco Corallo, a leading gamble boss from Sint Maarten. Schotte has tried to give Corallo power in the Central Bank of Curaçao and Sint Maarten, but fortunately, the Netherlands averted this. What we could not prevent was the large scale fraud that took place in public companies, where hundreds of millions vanished. Also, we were not able to prevent that Curaçao would become a safe haven for illegal gambling that launders dirty money anywhere in the world. We also had to watch as criminals tried to silence critics - Corallo also tried to challenge me in court.

The future of the islands

In 2012 Gerrit Schotte lost the parliamentary majority of the island, but the grip of the gambling mafia on the government of the island did not disappear. From the Netherlands, my VVD colleague Andre Bosman and I are doing much to get rid of those criminals on the island. At our request, the Netherlands now joins the United States in a large-scale investigation into the relationship between politics and the world of the gambling. The Netherlands also provides all the necessary assistance in the investigation into the murder of Helmin Wiels in 2013, after the politician had said to want to take action against the gambling industry on the island. But ultimately it’s not the Dutch MPs who need to fight for the future of these islands, the residents of Curaçao and Sint Maarten have to do this themselves.

Goodbye to the Kingdom?

Monday, September 26, there were elections in St. Maarten, where the party of Theo Heyliger came out as the largest. Heyliger - called on the island "Theo ten percent" - has a long history of fraud and corruption and is also closely linked to Corallo. If Schotte wins the elections in Curaçao on Wednesday, October 5th and - like Heyliger on St. Maarten – forms a government, the underworld will have a stronger grip on the island. That will affect the people on these islands, who will face a dark future. But it will also affect the relationship with the Netherlands because we cannot accept a country in the Dutch Kingdom that is led by a criminal. Opting for Schotte is a choice against the Kingdom.

But we are not there yet. There are also other politicians participating in the elections in Curaçao that cannot be bribed by the Mafia and who have an eye for the interests of the population. I hope that voters realize what’s at stake here and I wish them much wisdom on Wednesday.

This opinion article originally appeared in the Curaçao Chronicle of October 4th 2016


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