Dominica’s former ambassador designate seeks release from prison

Dominica’s former ambassador seeks release from prison

By TDN Wire Staff

June 17, 2017 1:55 A.M

francesco corallo
Corallo appears at a St Maarten court.
Roseau, Dominica (TDN)

A man who once paid millions of dollars for the protection of a Dominican diplomatic passport has appealed to the European Court of Human Rights in Strassbourg, France, complaining of “inhuman conditions” under which he is detained.

Francesco Corallo who was appointed by Roosevelt Skerrit as Dominica’s ambassador designate to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) in 2011 has been detained in St Maarten since December 13, 2016.

The former ambassador designate is being held by authorities on the island, in response to a request by the judicial authorities in Italy for his extradition. Corallo is accused of tax evasion in Italy, misappropriation of money, money laundering, and membership in a transnational criminal organisation.

In April his lawyers filed the complaint citing problems within the prison system in St Maarten. Attorneys Eldon “Peppi” Sulvaran, Paula Janssen, and Claudia Reijntjes-Wendenburg told the court that their client should be released immediately because of the inhumane circumstances under which he was held at the Philipsburg Police Station.

In the meantime a local court is expected to rule on June 20, 2017 whether Corallo should be extradited to Italy or rule in favour of a separate appeal filed by his lawyers seeking his immediate release based on the inhumane circumstances in which he is held.

In their petition to the Human Rights Court Corallo’s attorneys point out that the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture or Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) in August 2015 advised “that persons should not be detained at Philipsburg Police Station in excess of three days and in any event never longer than 10 days. The facility is totally inappropriate for holding remand and sentenced prisoners, and the CPT recommends that they be moved to alternative accommodation as soon as possible,” it was stated in the report.

His lawyers also argued that his delicate health including suffering from high blood pressure and his business interests make it impossible for his detention to continue. Corallo also complained that he is kept in a cell measuring 16 square meters and which he is often forced to share with five, six or seven other persons.

Corallo first shot into the international limelight on November 10, 2011 after he told Italian Police seeking to arrest him that he was immune from arrest because he was 'the Permanent Representative of the Commonwealth of Dominica at the FAO.”

In a subsequent press release the Dominica government confirmed that Corallo was indeed a holder of a diplomatic passport from Dominica and that they had initiated the correct protocol to have him instated as the country’s FAO ambassador.

At the time serious concerns were raised about the appointment, which appeared to contradict the Geneva Convention governing ambassadors. Particularly unsettling was the legal troubles of Corallo as well as his vast business empire in Italy, which would put him at odds with a diplomatic appointment.

To date, the government of Dominica has refused to indicate whether or not they have revoked the passport of Corallo.

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