Home affairs still investigating mafioso
Pretoria - Investigations are still underway to determine how alleged Italian mafia member Vito Palazzolo left South Africa using a passport with a different identity, home affairs said on Thursday.
"We are currently investigating how this individual known to us in South Africa as Vito Salvatore Maria Palazzolo acquired a passport with a different name of Robert Palace Kobatschenko and used it to leave the country," director general Mkhuseli Apleni told reporters in Pretoria.
Apleni said the department was also investigating how Palazzolo was granted citizenship by the government in 1986.
He said the South African embassy in Thailand and other international law enforcement agencies were investigating the matter.
Palazzo, 64, is a wanted member of the Sicilian mafia. He was arrested by Interpol officials after he flew into Bangkok from Hong Kong on Friday.
In 2006 an Italian court sentenced him in absentia to nine years’ imprisonment for his association with the mafia. He was living in South Africa at the time. The Western Cape High Court later denied a request for his extradition to Italy.
"We are also aware that Palazzolo used a Paraguay passport in 1992 which indicated he was a permanent residence holder in that country."
Hawks spokesperson McIntosh Polela confirmed Palazzolo was being investigated for money laundering. The probe was started by the now-defunct Scorpions and taken over by the Hawks.
Polela could not confirm when last Palazzolo was in the country, but said the Hawks were not involved in his arrest on Friday.
"Once we have ascertained all the facts around this issue, a determination on the way forward will be made," said Apleni.