WILLEMSTAD, Curacao -- The recent arrest of former Curacao prime minister Gerrit Schotte, leader of the political party Movementu Futuro Kòrsou (MFK) and his girlfriend Cicely van der Dijs has prompted Dutch newspaper Antilliaans Dagblad
to revisit Curacao’s history since Schotte became the country’s prime minister. This article was published by SXM Today
The review reads like a bad crime novel, but it is still a worthy read, and maybe also a warning to other politicians that are tempted to bend the law. How did Curacao arrive at the point where it is today?
There is a torn political landscape, an assassinated party-leader (Helmin Wiels) and attorneys like Eldon Sulvaran and Chester Peterson accuse anyone that comes to mind of corruption.
Gerrit Schotte stood on 10-10-10 together with then Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, Princess Máxima, Dutch kingdom relations minister Piet Hein Donner and Governor Frits Goedgedrag at Brion Square. As the leader of the new party MFK, he was the new prime minister of the newly born country Curacao.
The PAR of Emily de Jongh-Elhage won the most seats during the elections but the young MFK formed an ad hoc coalition – not based on a common ideology but rather the opposite – with Helmin Wiels of Pueblo Soberano and Charles Cooper of MAN, the party Schotte left before the elections.
Wiels fast became the largest critic of this cabinet:
“This government robs in 16 months what the previous government stole in 16 years,” he said more than once.
He also promised Schotte that he will put him in handcuffs.
From the beginning, there were doubts about the screening of ministers and its secret results and about the question whether the ministers met the standards that are required for their positions. Schotte said at Fort Amsterdam that the governor has told him that everything is okay with the screening. This was not true, but Schotte knew that the governor could not defend himself publicly against his lies.
That there was something wrong with the screening became clear for the first time from a public court ruling involving the head of the security service, Edsel Gumbs, who was put on non-active duty by Schotte. The ruling was reason for the interim head Lizanne Dindial to resign prematurely.
There were unconfirmed rumors about dozens of MOT reports from the bureau for Unusual Financial Transactions that are linked to Schotte. Schotte dismissed everything. He even put in writing that the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the MOT had inspected the reports and concluded that there was nothing wrong with them. Later it turned out that this was a lie.
Almost a year after the Schotte cabinet took office, the Rösenmoller Committee reported that a number of ministers should never have been appointed. The Parliament brushed the report aside, in spite of its title “Do It Your Self” – with a hint at the Parliament to clean up the mess. Schotte and former Justice Minister Elmer Wilsoe dismissed the report.
Wilsoe would later send a dubious letter to Washington in favour of the main suspect in the Bientu-investigation – lottery boss Robbie dos Santos, who supported the MFK financially, used the same attorneys (Sulvaran and Peterson) and is also on the MFK-board. Wilsoe appointed both lawyers as his advisors.
There was also a relationship between Schotte and the Italian/Dutch casino king Francesco Corallo in St Maarten. That these close ties existed was something they revealed themselves when Finance Minister George Jamaloodin – a half-brother of Dos Santos – announced that Rudolf Baetsen of the Atlantis World Casino Group would be appointed as the Central Bank’s chairman of the board. This plan triggered a lot of publicity and the appointment did not go through. Later, Schotte clashed with Central Bank President Emsley Tromp. In an impulsive mood, he showed illegally obtained private bank statements of Tromp during a live broadcast press conference on TV.
The leaked MOT reports show clearly that there are financial transactions from Corallo’s BetPlus to Schotte or to his girlfriend Cicely van der Dijs.
In spite of the media reports, the Public Prosecutor’s Office and Attorney-General Dick Piar did nothing for the moment while the (now former) head of the MOT, Kenneth Dambruck, was mad about the leaks. Schotte started making wild accusations and said that this was an attempt by some members of the security service to overthrow the government.
Several citizens’ rights movements were not giving up. Fundashon Akshon Sivil and an independent operating citizen file complaints backed up by documents. Then it becomes clear that the prosecutor’s office, according to its own statements, has never seen or examined the MOT reports before. In January 2013, the criminal investigation into this matter began.
A half year earlier, the political pressure went through the roof and the MFK-led coalition lost its majority support in Parliament. Eugène Cleopa (MAN) and Dean Rozier (MFK faction leader) toppled the government.
Schotte was outraged and later established the Reforma movement. Its objectives were, amongst others, to make stealing parliament seats impossible, to elect the prime minister directly – possibly to circumvent screening – and to give this function near unlimited powers. In spite of the lack of majority support, Schotte did not want to give up. Ivar Asjes, then thought to be the right hand of PS leader Helmin Wiels, supported Schotte.
When the Schotte government was literally fired and the Betrian interim government sworn in, Schotte holed up in Fort Amsterdam with bodyguards and – as it appeared afterwards – paid sympathizers. Schotte told South American media that a coup has taken place in Curacao.
Coalition partner Wiels did not come to Punda; he even called on his supporters to leave the Fort Square and to gather at the Pueblo Soberano party headquarters. While several PS ministers, Wilsoe among them, were still at the government center, this is with hindsight probably the moment where Wiels turned his back on Schotte.
Wiels, Schotte and Cooper still entered the elections with the intention to continue with their coalition and they even win a majority. During the formation things go wrong when Schotte insisted that he wanted to stay on as prime minister.
The Hodge transition cabinet succeeded Betrian’s interim cabinet and since 2013 the Asjes cabinet has been in office. Asjes has turned away from Schotte completely in the meantime. Especially under Betrian and Hodge it became clear what a mess the country is in.
The government finances are in a shambles and utilities company Aqualectra, Curoil and the refinery appear to have some skeletons in their closets. Schotte was politically responsible for all three of them. Oswald van der Dijs, an uncle of Schotte’s girlfriend Cicely and brother of the owner of the Vanddis gas stations, was their chairman of the board.
Without informing The Hague, Schotte attempted to land Francesco Corallo a never-specified high function in Curacao. Leaked documents show that the Italian authorities informed the Kingdom that they knew Corallo to be a member of the mafia and someone involved in drugs and money laundering.
Coalition partner PS was not blameless either, because Minister Wilsoe intervened directly in the criminal investigation against Robbie dos Santos (who financed both MFK and PS), by asking Washington to lift a lien on bank accounts in Miami that hold millions of dollars. Schotte did not intervene, also not when Wilsoe said he has lost confidence in Attorney General Dick Piar.
On May 5, 2013, Curacao and the rest of the Kingdom were in shock after the assassination of Helmin Wiels. Everything points towards a political murder.
When detectives search Schotte’s house and some offices in December 2013, some media report prematurely that this is linked to the assassination. The raids were, however, linked to the Babel investigation. From that moment on, Schotte was a suspect, but he stayed on as a member of parliament.
Later it became public that the detectives found the diplomatic passport Schotte held when he was prime minister; he reported earlier to the police that he had lost it. Detectives collected evidence linked to accusations of money laundering and forgery; they also confiscated documents about his special relationship with Francesco Corallo.
Recently, attorney Sulvaran – known as the attorney of Dos Santos and as a member of the political pressure group KFO of which Elmer Wilsoe is also a member – filed a complaint against the Public Prosecutor’s Office on behalf of Schotte and Cicely van der Dijs about unlawfully obtained documents. Shortly afterwards Sulvaran said in a broadcast at Radio Mas that there was a need for a cleansing of the judicial system because it is possible to bribe prosecutors, judges and the attorney general. By then, Sulvaran had been busy for some time with accusations against fellow professionals like the dean of the Bar Association, prosecutors, disciplinary judges and other judges and judges of instruction.
On May 20, the National Detectives Agency arrested Schotte and Van der Dijs. To be continued, we assume.
Republished with permission of the Curacao Chronicle