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“WARNING: This person is armed, violent and dangerous.”
These words, in capital letters, appear below a set of Vito Palazzolo’s fingerprints on an Interpol red notice – one of Interpol’s tools for tracking international fugitives.
The notice, published on September 30, 2010, goes on to say that Palazzolo is “devoted to international drug trafficking” and that he helped other Mafia representatives abscond abroad.
A copy of the red notice is included in a set of documents about Palazzolo handed to the Western Cape High Court earlier his month.
Also included in the documents is a letter from Palazzolo’s local attorney, Norman Snitcher, to Interpol commissioner controlling its files, asking that the red notice be withdrawn as it did not accurately reflect details about his client.
Palazzolo, 64, was arrested in Thailand on March 30 on an Interpol red notice and has been detained there for nearly a month.
It is not yet clear whether he will be extradited from Thailand to Italy, where he faces a nine-year prison sentence for Mafia-type associations, or where he will be returned to SA where he has lived for more than two decades.
The red notice issued for Palazzolo in 2010 classified him as a “fugitive wanted to serve a sentence”.
“From 29 March 1992 to 10 July 2001 Palazzolo was sentenced to be associated with Mafia organisation, he belongs in particular to the famiglia of Partinico, he’s devoted to international drug trafficking and money laundering of proceeds of the crimes committed,” it said.
The notice said Palazzolo was “in terms with the most important representatives of crime association called ‘Cosa Nostra’ “, and named these individuals as Salvatore Rini, Bonanno Giovanni and Gelardi Giuseppe.
It said Palazzolo “helped them in absconding abroad”.
Under a section titled “action to be taken if traced”, it said: “Locate and arrest with a view to extradite.”
The notice said Palazzolo spoke Italian and his nationality was Italian.
In response to the red notice, Snitcher then wrote to Interpol in March last year, asking for it to be withdrawn.
“The red notice erroneously designates Mr Palazzolo as ‘armed, violent and dangerous’, whereas in fact he has never been convicted or charged with any crime involving violence, or been found in the possession of a firearm,” Snitcher said.
He also pointed out that to say Palazzolo was “devoted to international drug trafficking” was incorrect. “He is not sought in Italy for drug trafficking and indeed has never been convicted of any narcotics trading,” Snitcher said.
“It is submitted further that the red notice is illegitimate because it is based upon a trial tainted by gross pre-trial irregularities.”
The court documents did not go on to say whether the 2010 red notice had been withdrawn.