A man whom Dominica had sought to be its permanent representative to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) was arrested in St. Maarten on Wednesday.
Media reports in St. Maarten indicated Francesco Corallo was arrested by that island’s Anti-corruption Taskforce (TBO) of the Kingdom Detectives Cooperation Team (RST) on the request of Italian authorities.
The reports indicate that the Italian was arrested along with Atlantis Group CFO Rudolph Baetsen (50), born in the Netherlands.
The reports indicated that Italy will request his extradition to face charges of tax evasion, bribery of politicians among other alleged offenses.
Dominica’s connection with Corallo popped up in November 10, 2011, when Italy’s Guardia di Finanza (the financial unit of the tax police in Rome) raided his home and office while investigating a questionable US $200 million loan from the Roman Banca Popolare to gaming giant Atlantis/Betplus.
Corallo was described as the ‘beneficial owner’ of Atlantis/Betplus by the Italian media.
However when his home was being raided Corallo claimed diplomatic immunity on the grounds that he was an ambassador to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for the Commonwealth of Dominica.
However at that time the FAO office in Rome declared it did not know Corallo. In a statement released to the Italian press that same year (2011) the FAO said Corallo “is not the organization’s permanent ambassador for the Commonwealth of Dominica.”
In November that same year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement saying indeed Corallo was a designated Ambassador of Dominica to the FAO, saying the proposed appointment was guided by standard policy.
The statement said that in a letter dated June 21 2011, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs sought the approval of the FAO for Corallo to be Permanent Representative of Dominica. However, by the time of November 2011 arrest, the Ministry said it was still awaiting formal communication from the FAO, so as to proceed.
It appeared that the appointment never came to fruition.
Below is the statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in November 2011 after the Corallo matter erupted in the media that year.
It has been brought to the attention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Commonwealth of Dominica that over the past few days, many negative comments are being promulgated with respect to the character and integrity of an Ambassador Designate of Dominica to the Food and Agricultural Organization, FAO.
The facts are that this proposed appointment was guided by standard policy as it relates to the selection of both nationals and non-nationals willing to serve and represent Dominica in an Honorary capacity in Honorary Consulates, Missions and Trade and Investment Offices in strategic capitals, or as Non Resident Ambassadors.
Following a Cabinet Decision of June 2011, Government agreed to strengthen Dominica’s presence at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO. By letter dated June 21 2011, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs sought the approval of the FAO for the appointment of Mr. Francesco Corallo as Permanent Representative of Dominica to the FAO. Recognizing the strategic importance of the FAO to Dominica, Cabinet has also advised that a suitably qualified technical Official from Headquarters form part of the staffing of the Mission. The Ministry is still awaiting formal communication from the FAO, so as proceed
Under the Headquarters Agreement with the Government of Italy, the FAO is required to clear all appointments with the relevant Government Authority in Italy. Through discussions with the FAO, Dominica’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was assured that the process was cleared in principle and that a date was being finalized for the presentation of credentials to the Director General. In order to facilitate the process the FAO, requested copies of Mr. Corallo’s CV, information on the location of the Mission and the first two pages of his diplomatic passport. A letter was also issued by the Ministry of Interior of Italy, as evidence that Mr. Corallo was sufficiently cleared by that Ministry.
In keeping with the letter and spirit of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic relations, Internal relations practices and the request from FAO, official documentation were issued to Mr. Corallo to facilitate the presentation of credentials to the Director General of FAO and to treat with the Authorities in Italy in the actual establishment of the Permanent Mission.
It was not until that time, that the FAO’s Protocol Office informed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Dominica that Mr. Corallo’s appointment with the Director General of FAO had to be rescheduled as the required No Objection from by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Italy had not been formally requested by the FAO. In that case, the FAO would have to await the ‘No Objection,’ from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Italy before it could proceed. To date, the Ministry has not received any formal communication and the appointment is still pending. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Dominica has also not received any formal communique or word from the Italian authorities or Mr. Francisco Corallo in respect of the present allegations in the media.
The procedure for formalizing such appointments is standard International relations Policy and practice. The sending State having identified an individual, conducts background checks. Thereafter, and consistent with International Laws and practice, the process of appointment is then triggered as follows;
-Government makes the initial appointment.
-Government then communicates to the organization or the state seeking agreement for the said appointment. The agreement of the receiving State and or the Organization is extremely important to the process as it allows for another phase of due diligence which is this time conducted by the respective state or organization.
-The receiving State or Organization then has to communicate its approval or objection of the said appointment.
-If the appointment is approved then arrangements are made for credentials to be presented and where applicable missions established. It is only then that the process is complete. If the initial appointment does not receive the approval of the receiving State or organization, the process can’t continue and as such the initial appointment is cancelled.
This process of appointing Ambassadors, Consul Generals, Honorary Consuls and Permanent Representatives to international Organizations is transparent and involves not just Dominica but the receiving State and or Organization. All activities are governed by well established conventions, agreements and internationally accepted norms and practices. Any abuse can easily be identified and address by all parties under clear provisions of International law spanning several decades. Dominica has always acted within the remit of International Conventions and intends to continue with its track record of Transparency, Respect for the Rule of Law and Sovereignty of all States and Good Governance for which it is well recognized by the international community.
Dominica currently has missions in Washington, United Kingdom, New York (United Nations) Paris (UNESCO) and Cuba; Join OECS Missions in Geneva(Technical Mission) and Brussels; Honorary Consulates in Guadeloupe, Martinique, Jamaica, Greece, Switzerland, and Cyprus. Dominica also has appointed Non Resident Ambassadors to, Japan, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Brazil, Chile, ALBA, CARICOM and OECS.