'South African' mafia boss arrested in Thailand

2012-03-31 22:22

Rome -Thai police have arrested a wanted Italian mafia boss after he flew to Bangkok airport, Italian media said Saturday.

Vito Roberto Palazzolo, from Terrasini near the Sicilian capital Palermo and considered to be a leading member of the Cosa Nostra Sicilian mafia for whom he laundered money, was arrested on Friday.

He was sentenced in absentia by an Italian court in 2009 to nine years in jail for association with the mafia and had been living in South Africa under the name Robert von Palace Kolbatschenko.

South African authorities had declined to extradite the 64-year-old.

Investigators tracked him down after monitoring his Facebook profile and that of his friends and family.

Italian media reported that Thailand had agreed to his extradition to Italy but that his lawyers said he was a South African national, even though he had assumed it under another identity.

When he was first sentenced in 2006, public prosecutors in Palermo said Palazzolo was "one of the most important Cosa Nostra figures in 20 years, notably because of his key role between business and the mafia".

In South Africa he is seen as a major business leader with interests in mineral water, security and ostrich farming.

Investigators believe he is also the owner of a hunting ground popular with the rich and famous, and an investor in a company in Angola that specialising in precious stones.

He was also said to be the owner of a diamond cutting business.

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