Cape Town - German fugitive and fraudster Jurgen Harksen is "related" to Italian mafioso Vito Palazzolo and both were probed by an elite investigative unit set up by former president Nelson Mandela.This claim emerged in the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday in a civil trial by Major-General Andre Lincoln.While Piet Senekal, a police officer, was being questioned on the witness stand, the links between Harksen and Palazzolo were elaborated on.In 1996, Mandela tasked Lincoln with leading a presidential investigative task unit to probe Palazzolo, a Cape Town-based Italian mafioso and his links to government officials, police, and businessmen.He was arrested for criminal allegations against him and others in the unit. He is now claiming R15m in damages from the minister of safety and security [now the minister of police] for alleged malicious prosecution.The unit he had been a member of had investigated people including Harksen, who fled to SA in 1993. He was arrested on fraud charges involving $8m.Linked investigationsIn Germany, Harksen faced prosecution for an investment scam in which at least 70 people were defrauded of millions of dollars.Palazzolo, who for years was based in SA, is currently jailed in Italy.In 2009, an Italian court sentenced him in absentia to nine years' imprisonment for having an association with the Mafia. He was arrested in Thailand in 2012 on an Interpol notice as he was trying to return to SA. He was extradited to Italy.On Tuesday, Senekal said he could not agree with the fact that the task unit investigated matters it chose to, especially those unrelated to Palazzolo.Johann Nortje, for Lincoln, put it to Senekal that the presidential unit investigated both Harksen and Palazzolo because they were clearly linked."There was an information note by Major-General Lincoln to [then national police commissioner George] Fivaz. The reason why they targeted Mr Harksen was because he was related to Mr Palazzolo," Nortje said.He did not elaborate on what he meant by "related".He said when Harksen was eventually extradited, members of the investigative task unit had led this action. Senekal said he was not aware of this.In November 1996, a document from the presidential task unit in the Western Cape said the "aliens investigation unit" had registered an inquiry regarding Moroccan aliens.Nortje said the presidential task unit had been busy with a similar investigation and therefore the aliens investigation unit had halted its probe."Moroccans were part of the target group by the presidential investigative task unit," he said.More details about this were expected to emerge later.The case continues.