Vito Palazzolo, who spent years in SA fighting extradition to Italy where he was convicted of having links with the Mafia, was arrested in the early hours of yesterday morning at Bangkok airport, after apparently trying to enter that country on a SA passport.
South Africa’s ambassador to Thailand Ruby Marks confirmed last night that the embassy in Bangkok received a call about 1am yesterday morning to assist, as Palazzolo was travelling on a SA passport.
She said he had travelled to Thailand from Hong Kong, where he is believed to have been living since the beginning of the year. Some international media reports yesterday indicated that authorities had caught up with Palazzolo in Hong Kong, and that he then fled to Thailand where he was arrested in a joint operation involving Interpol and the Italian authorities. Marks said their information was that he was arrested after being flagged on an Interpol watch list.
Palazzolo lived in SA for a number of years, fighting several legal battles to avoid being extradited to his native Italy. Marks said embassy officials had been unable to meet Palazzolo, or see his travel documents, and so could not confirm whether a SA passport had indeed been used.
She said fingerprints would be taken at a later stage to confirm Palazzolo’s identity.
“We will only be able to see him (tomorrow) morning,” she said.
Sicilian-born Palazzolo originally arrived in South Africa in the 1980s, bearing a false passport, having escaped from a Swiss prison during a 36-hour parole.
He had been convicted of financial crimes relating to drug money. - Sunday Independent