Bangkok

Thailand to extradite Mafia money-launderer to Italy

Palazzolo convicted of links with top Cosa Nostra bosses

Thailand to extradite Mafia money-launderer to Italy

Bangkok, December 20 - A court in Bangkok Thursday ordered the extradition to Italy of Vito Roberto Palazzolo, an Italian financier convicted of being a money-launderer for the Mafia, the Italian Embassy told ANSA. The court ordered the extradition of the financier, who was arrested on March 31 at Bangkok's airport as he was preparing to leave the country, after nine months of diplomatic negotiations. Palazzolo, 65, was convicted in 2006 to nine years in prison for mafia association after laundering money for infamous mobsters including former Cosa Nostra chiefs Salvatore 'Toto' Riina and Bernardo Provenzano, who are in now prison. The conviction followed the so-called Pizza Connection investigation, which exposed a heroin and cocaine smuggling operation worth around 1.5 billion euros that used New York pizzerias as fronts from 1975 to 1984. Palazzolo's lawyer, Baldassare Lauria, on Thursday said his client would probably not appeal against the decision and was likely to return Italy ''voluntarily''. He has 30 days to make an appeal. Referring to a period in which Palazzolo lived and worked in Switzerland, Lauria said: ''It's clear that he could shed light on many mysteries and on his relationship with institutions and members of various Italian organizations''. Since he left Italy, the mafia financier had also lived in South Africa, where he set up a financial business and acquired citizenship. The Italian authorities had issued an international arrest warrant for Palazzolo, who was not arrested because of the Italian warrant but because he violated Thai immigration laws. The Italian government filed its extradition request with Thai authorities on April 20.

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