New delay in ‘mob boss’ extradition

2009-07-24 00:00

ALLEGED “mob boss” Vito Roberto Palazzolo says efforts to extradite him to Sicily show that prosecutors there have “found new allies in post-apartheid South Africa”.

In a statement released to Beeld, Palazzolo denied any connection to the Mafia and said he is the victim of an “unholy conspiracy to pervert the course of justice”.

Palazzolo (62 next week) was reacting to a weekend newspaper report that his “extradition papers have finally been signed by the South African government”.

“It boggles the mind … that the Palermo courts should again attempt to revive a 17-year-old legal corpse …” he wrote. “I have nothing to hide, unlike certain quarters in Palermo and in South Africa where the old apartheid-era ghost still wanders about causing mischief for reasons best understood by them.”

The press report quoted Justice Department spokesman Tlali Tlali saying former Justice minister Enver Surty signed extradition papers involving Palazzolo.

But two years since the Italian authorities lodged their request, it appears the matter will be delayed once again.

In an SMS to Beeld on Monday, Tlali said Jeff Radebe, the new minister, “recently signed papers that allow the Interpol to approach our courts for an order initiating Vito Palazzolo’s extradition”. Then on Wednesday, Tlali said Radebe had only signed an “inter-departmental memorandum” last week. He said Interpol need not approach the courts and described the matter as sub judice.

In 2006, Palazzolo was convicted in absentia in Palermo of “Mafia association” and sentenced to nine years in prison. In April this year, he lost his appeal.

Interpol said this week it is “waiting for the green light” from the Justice Department and the National Prosecuting Authority before they can proceed.

“The request for his extradition came in 2007,” said Interpol’s Senior Superintendent Tummi Golding of Interpol.

“We are waiting for the director of public prosecutions to give us the green light to get an arrest warrant and then we can arrest him, even tomorrow … Interpol met the NPA last week in Cape Town. We wanted to know when the case is going to be finalised. It appears that there is an error in one of the documents and it must be returned to Italy to be rectified.”

Italian authorities have been trying to get Palazzolo extradited for the past 22 years. In 2006, the department of Justice turned down their request for extradition on the grounds that it did not regard the Palermo court’s conviction of him as “definitive”.

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