di Riccardo D'Andrea
Rome, January 10 - Italy's supreme Cassation Court on Friday approved extradition to the United States for German ex-financier Florian Homm, accused of fleecing hedge-fund clients of roughly $220 million through market-manipulation schemes. Homm's case now goes to Italy's justice minister, Anna Maria Cancellieri, who has final say over his extradition. "There clearly has been undue pressure applied by the American government," remarked Homm's defence lawyer Mario Zanchetti. "We will appeal to Strasbourg," he added, making reference to the European Court of Human Rights. The Cassation also rejected Homm's petition to be hospitalized rather than kept at the San Giovanni Bosco prison in Pisa, where he is now. Homm's lawyer says his client suffers from a neuro-degenerative disease and that his health in prison is deteriorating quickly without proper diagnosis or therapy. Zanchetti said the court-appointed physician who assessed Homm's condition determined that his disease cannot be cured or treated, and that what little can be done also can be carried out in prison. "But in the Pisa prison, there is only one bicycle, which does not even have an adjustable seat for someone who is more than two metres tall like Homm," said Zanchetti. "I had hoped that the Cassation Court would concede hospitalization at least until the sclerosis that hit him has been typed. He entered the prison walking. Now he needs crutches," Zanchetti added. After a five-year flight from justice, the once highly regarded, cigar-chomping hedge-fund financier was arrested last March while visiting the Uffizi Galleries in Florence, on a tip from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Homm fled his Mallorca home in September 2007, and wrote in a published memoir - written in hiding - that he boarded a private jet with $500,000 stuffed in his Calvin Klein underwear, a briefcase and a cigar box, accompanied by his "friend and mule" Giorgio, who carried another $700,000. According to The Independent newspaper, Los Angeles prosecutors accuse Homm of orchestrating a share manipulation schemes that led to losses of at least $200 million for investors throughout the world, and if convicted, he faces up to 75 years in prison.