Vito Roberto Palazzolo

Caryn Dolley

VITO PALAZZOLO’s initial immigration file disappeared more than two decades ago and has yet to resurface.

This information is detailed in an answering affidavit handed in to the Western Cape High Court earlier this month from Modiri Matthews, Home Affairs chief director of the immigration inspectorate.

In his affidavit, Matthews detailed how Palazzolo, who is originally from Sicily, first made his way into SA in the mid-1980s.

Palazzolo, 64, is being detained in Thailand following his arrest on March 30.

It is not yet clear whether Palazzolo will be extradited to Italy, where he faces a nine- year prison sentence for mafia-type associations, or whether he will be returned to SA where he has lived for more than two decades.

According to his legal representatives, he has SA citizenship.

In his affidavit, Matthews said despite SA authorities refusing Palazzolo a six-month holiday visa in 1986 on the basis of his having a criminal record, Palazzolo had still travelled to the country later that year.

He said that on December 26, 1986, Palazzolo had used a Swiss passport bearing the name Stelio Domenico Frapoli to make his way into SA.

Matthews said Palazzolo had gone to the Ciskei, arriving there with a passport under the name Vito Palazzolo, and had been permitted to stay there.

With the assistance of Peet de Pontes, a National Party MP for East London, who later resigned and was convicted over the saga, Palazzolo was given a permanent resident’s permit by the Ciskei government and then citizenship.

“He was given a Ciskei ID document and passport. What was notable was that one document recorded that he was born in Burgersdorp while the other recorded he was born in West Germany,” Matthews said.

He said Palazzolo was then able to obtain permanent residency in SA with the “underhand assistance” of a senior Home Affairs official based in Pretoria.

Matthews named the officer as JD Scheffer.

He said Scheffer had later handed over Palazzolo’s immigration files to De Pontes.

“That file has not been seen since,” Matthews said.

After Palazzolo’s arrest in Thailand at the end of March, Matthews had checked on records to establish from where Palazzolo had left SA.

“No record could be found of (Palazzolo) leaving South Africa from a lawfully designated port of entry,” Matthews’ affidavit stated.

“In fact, according to the movement control system which tracks the movement of a passport holder, the last entry was on December 17, 2011, which shows (Palazzolo) to have entered the republic on December 20, 2011,” Matthews said.

According to previous court documents, the Western Cape High Court found two years ago that Palazzolo had been granted citizenship in 2005.

That was why Palazzolo’s attorneys were trying to get the SA government to assist Palazzolo in Thailand and grant him full diplomatic protection.

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