10/11/2010 Fraudulent ID documents and Passports which were confisticated from various FNB banks, during a discussion on the latest card fraud trends held in Sandton JHB. Photo: Leon Nicholas

Caryn Dolley

HOME Affairs officials are investigating how Vito Palazzolo came to hold two SA passports, because the grounds on which these documents were issued could have been legally flawed.

They are also looking into stripping him of his SA citizenship.

Home Affairs Department spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa confirmed the investigation into Palazzolo’s two passports.

He said the department was not investigating any other aspect of Palazzolo.

As far as he was aware, there had been no developments affecting Palazzolo’s situation in Thailand, he said.

Palazzolo, 64, who was originally from Sicily, was arrested in Thailand on March 30.

He has been detained there since and it is not yet clear whether he will be extradited to Italy, where he faces a nine-year prison sentence for Mafia-type associations, or be returned to SA, where he has lived for more than two decades.

In an answering affidavit handed up to the Western Cape High Court earlier this month, Modiri Matthews, chief director of Home Affairs’ immigration inspectorate, said the department had carried out a preliminary investigation into Palazzolo.

“It would appear from the national population register that (Palazzolo) currently holds two active passports,” he said.

In the affidavit, Matthews said Palazzolo had:

l A passport issued on July 1, 2004, that would expire on June 30, 2014.

l A passport issued on January 5 last year that would expire on January 4, 2021.

In travelling to Thailand, Palazzolo used the passport issued early last year to Roberto von Palace Kolbatschenko, the name he adopted officially in 1987.

“It is worth mentioning further that at no stage did Palazzolo report the earlier passport as having been stolen or missing,” Matthews said. “The underlying premise on which these documents were applied for and obtained, however, is under investigation.”

Matthews said in the affidavit he had met members of the Department of International Relations and Co-operation and Department of Justice and Constitutional Development on April 10.

“I advised that though prima facie the passport that was in the possession of (Palazzolo) had been issued by the department, the underlying presumptions on which the department had relied in issuing the passport, (were) legally flawed,” Matthews said.

He said he was drafting a detailed memorandum asking the Home Affairs director-general to bring up the question of Palazzolo’s citizenship with the minister “with the objective of requesting her to consider depriving (Palazzolo) of his citizenship”.

“I mention, however, that the investigation into these matters has not been finalised and is ongoing,” he said.

A letter dated mid-April from ME Ngoetjana, for the State Attorney’s Office in Pretoria, to Palazzolo’s attorney in Cape Town, Norman Snitcher, said Palazzolo was a South African citizen.

“The above notwithstanding, there is reason to believe that there are grounds for the minister of Home Affairs ... to deprive your client of his citizenship,” Ngoetjana said.

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