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Mafia Capo Vito Palazzolo

Political Bureau

The government has never refused to co-operate with Italian authorities about extraditing alleged mafia boss and fugitive Vito Palazzolo, says Justice Minister Jeff Radebe.

The Western Cape High Court is on Friday expected to hear Palazzolo’s case against the Justice Ministry in a bid to prevent his extradition to Italy to serve a nine-year sentence for his mafia links. In a written reply to a DA parliamentary question, Radebe said South Africa had never rejected Italy’s application to return the fugitive to his native country.

Radebe said Italian authorities first applied to extradite Palazzolo – known at home as a “Mafia banker” – in 2001, but said Italian authorities withdrew the request in June 2004

After a fresh request for Palazzolo’s deportation in 2007 the extradition process ensued. But as justice officials were about to approach a “relevant” magistrate’s court to issue an extradition warrant for Palazzolo last month, his lawyers launched an urgent interdict against the Justice Ministry.

Radebe said he was responsible for deciding whether or not to hand Palazzolo over to Italian authorities but said the matter was sub judice until the high court had made a finding.

In court papers filed last month, Palazzolo protested that he was a South African citizen and had not been to Italy in 30 years. He fled Switzerland while awaiting trial on money-laundering charges and relocated to South Africa in 1987