OWN CORRESPONDENT, Johannesburg | Monday 9.30pm.
THE Cape Town businessman Vito Palazzolo has been named by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation as being a senior member of the Sicilian mafia group Cosa Nostra.
Palazzolo entered South Africa illegally in the 1980s and was given South African citizenship in 1995 in spite of appearing on Interpol’s most wanted list. He has since built a thriving business empire in South Africa. He is also reported to own diamond concessions in Angola.
Palazzolo has always denied any connections to the mafia.
His trial on charges of money laundering is being held in Palermo, Sicily in spite of his absence.
The FBI report named Palazzolo, alias Robert von Palace Kolbachenko, as one of the top seven in the Cosa Nostra, the traditional Sicilian mafia organisation. He is suspected of having set up a mafia cell in South Africa, and of being in contact with other international mafia organisations.
Repeated attempts at extradition of Palazzolo have been thwarted by the South African government’s lack of co-operation with Italian and US law agencies, despite two international warrants of arrest for drug related crimes.
Palazzolo is one of 76 potential state witnesses due to appear at the trial of the suspended head of the presidential investigation unit, Andre Lincoln, which is due to begin in November.
* FORMER apartheid foreign affairs minister Pik Botha says he will sue the Mail & Guardian for R10-million in defamation damages for a report that claimed he was blackmailed into granting South African citizenship to Italian mafioso Vito Palazzolo over a photograph of him in bed with a black woman. Botha said he wants to go to court so that “the whole truth” comes out.