Jailed mafioso’s past to be resurrected

2017-03-12 21:22
Vito Palazzolo (File, Netwerk24)

Vito Palazzolo (File, Netwerk24)

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Cape Town – Italian mafioso Vito Palazzolo’s past may come back to haunt him this week when a court case focusing on investigations into him proceeds.

Palazzolo, who for years was based in South Africa, is currently jailed in Italy.

In 2009, he was sentenced in absentia to nine years' imprisonment by an Italian court for having an association with the Mafia.

He was arrested in Thailand in 2012 on an Interpol notice as he was travelling back to South Africa.

Palazzolo went on to be extradited from Thailand to Italy.

Questions among some in the police and other sectors have always remained about why Palazzolo was never simply arrested in this country and then extradited to Italy.

There have also been questions about whether Palazzolo was protected by high-ranking government officials.

This week, investigations into the mafioso are set to come under the spotlight when a case by Major-General Andre Lincoln, who is claiming R15 million in damages from the minister of safety and security (now the minister of police), goes ahead in the Western Cape High Court.

Lincoln was discharged from the police in 2003 over the Palazzolo matter, amidst allegations he was protecting the mafioso.

But he was reinstated in 2010 after being acquitted of the charges.

Lincoln's claims matter is set to start on Monday.

In 1996 Lincoln was appointed by former president Nelson Mandela as the head of the presidential investigation task unit.

Presidential probe

A court document in the Lincoln claim matter says he was appointed "to investigate allegations of police corruption in the Western Cape and the alleged activities of Mr Roberto [Vito] Palazzolo, who was a suspected member of the Sicilian Mafia [Cosa Nostra]".

In a transcript of previous related court proceedings, in News24’s possession and which date back to 2002, some of the probes into Palazzolo are detailed.

At the time Peter Viljoen, better known by the first name Piet and then a former member of the presidential task unit who had also investigated Palazzolo, testified about the investigation.

"The original mandate was to investigate Vito Palazzolo and any government officials, but I think there were names mentioned of public servants that could be involved with him in these crimes."

Infiltrated

Lincoln had got close to Palazzolo under the ruse that he could help him.

It was his way of getting information.

He had even travelled to Angola with Palazzolo to probe mining contracts.

But Viljoen testified that information gathered had piled up.

"The unhappiness about that was that there was no one to do anything with this information."

Lincoln also had not been sure what to do with it.

Palazzolo was under investigation for an array of matters and linked to several other probes.

Murder links and illegal gun

Viljoen had testified that he had a draft affidavit from Palazzolo on the murder of South West Africa People’s Organisation (Swapo) activist Anton Lubowski.

Lubowski was killed in Windhoek on September 12, 1989.

Lincoln had wanted Viljoen to see if he could assist in this case.

 In a 1997 consultation, Palazzolo acknowledged he was in possession of a firearm.

"And we all knew he didn’t have a licence on record," Viljoen said.

Palazzolo was also accused of intimidating Lincoln via an underworld kingpin, who was later murdered in 2011.

Information gathered

When Lincoln was arrested on various charges, Viljoen had started probing Palazzolo.

Viljoen had testified that all information about Palazzolo was at that stage with the now-defunct Scorpions.

"Everything about Vito Palazzolo is with the Scorpions. I have 14 lever arch files that are with them."

It was not immediately clear what had become of this information.

Read more on:    andre lincoln  |  vito palazzolo  |  cape town  |  crime

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