Published On: Tue, Aug 7th, 2018

The presumption of innocence

Hilbert Haar - foto Milton PietersBy Hilbert Haar

The presumption of innocence is a crucial component of our judicial system. You are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. If you are not happy with a court ruling you are free to appeal and if you are not satisfied with that ruling you can go to the Supreme Court.

While this is a seemingly fair system you are pretty much screwed if you happen to be more than an average Joe. Say, you are an artist, a politician or a well-known businessman. Once an accusation is out there media coverage will do the rest to take you down. That is not the fault of the media – it is just how news works.

Just ask Sir Cliff Richard. When accusation of sexual child abuse surfaced his reputation was pretty much shot to hell. It took four years before the ageing singer was cleared of all wrongdoing. And yet, what is the first thing people probably think when they hear his name?

Oh yeah, wasn’t he accused of messing around with children?

In St. Maarten the presumption of innocence principle has been taken to dubious levels by politicians and high ranking civil servants who broke the law. Bribery and tax evasion – think Louie Laveist, Maria and Claudius Buncamper-(Molanus) – who cares? Laveist was sentenced up the gazoo and still maintained his innocence. Same for Buncamper who managed to tell a Dutch TV-reporter with a straight face “I have done nothing wrong” in spite of a conviction for tax fraud.

Casino owner Francesco Corallo recently made headlines because he had been spotted in St. Maarten. The public prosecutor’s office volunteered in a press release why it isn’t prosecuting Corallo.

Some media jumped on the story, labeling Corallo not as a businessman, nor a casino owner, but as someone with ties to the mafia.

Before anyone starts, I want to make one thing clear. I am not here to defend Corallo because I figure he is quite capable of making his own position clear.

The situation is quite simple. Corallo has never been sentenced for anything. He hasn’t even been in court yet. That could still happen – in Italy – but that court case has nothing to do with the mafia. Furthermore, Corallo has explained in the past that all fiscal matters have been settled a long time ago.

In the meantime, Corallo keeps being haunted by a moniker that has no factual basis.

That’s why I prefer referring to Mr. Corallo as a businessman or a casino owner. If that time ever comes – which is something I doubt very much – it is early enough to stand corrected.