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Daily Archives: April 25th, 2010

Vito Palazzolo mafia

South Africa’s inability to extradite a convicted Mafia leader was an embarrassment.

That’s the view of former director of public prosecutions Vusi Pikoli.

Pikoli spoke out this week after learning that he had been drawn into a fresh legal bid by Vito Palazzolo to block his extradition to Italy – where he was convicted in absentia in 2006 of “aggravated Mafia-type association” and sentenced to nine years in prison.

Palazzolo has lived in South Africa for over 20 years, is a successful businessman and has a R13-million home at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront.

Former minister of justice Enver Surty set extradition procedures in motion last year. But Palazzolo launched an application at the High Court in Cape Town to have the extradition application reviewed.

Palazzolo, in court papers, claims there is an “unscrupulous campaign” being waged against him and accused South African and Italian authorities of colluding against him.

He was charged, in 2002, with criminal Mafia association in Palermo, Italy.

A year later, the president of the criminal court in Palermo, Dr Donatella Puleo, requested the testimony of 17 South African witnesses, including former director of public prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka.

Palazzolo alleged that a delegation, led by Pikoli, subsequently flew to Italy to meet with Puleo and other judges and succeeded in removing Ngcuka and others from the witness list.

He claims that under cross examination, they would have had to reveal collusion between the departments of justice and home affairs to cancel the South African citizenship which – he claims – he legitimately obtained in 1994.

Pikoli, however, this week denied this. “On collusion … things can always be proven by facts, not people’s fertile imagination when they are running away from justice matters. Palazzolo is a fugitive from justice … the last thing (we need) as South Africa, is to be seen as a haven for fugitives from the law.

“The truth of the matter is that this is an embarrassment to the state that we have not been able to extradite this man,” he said.

Ngcuka declined to comment.

Palazzolo claims that government’s decision to process his extradition while his case is still pending is unconstitutional.

Said Dr Gaetano Paci, from the Anti-Mafia Directorate in Palermo: “For the Italian government it is very important that a Mafia leader of Palazzolo’s level be no longer at large.”

Palazzolo’s case will be heard at the High Court in Cape Town next month.