Thailand arrests Vito Roberto Palazzolo, 'South African' mafia banker wanted in Italy


A member of the Italian Carbiniere stands by an empty cell in the Pagliarelli prison on June 29, 2010.



Vito Roberto Palazzolo, a Sicilian mafia banker wanted in Italy, has been arrested in Thailand.

Palazzolo, 64, from Terrasini near Sicily's capital, Palermo, is considered an important member of the Cosa Nostra mafia, Agence-France Presse reported.

He had been living in South Africa under the assumed name Robert von Palace Kolbatschenko, after having been sentenced in absentia by an Italian court in 2009 to nine years in jail for his mafia ties.

In South Africa, where he is a citizen, he is considered a major business leader with interests in mineral water, security and ostrich farming, AFP reported.

South Africa had refused to extradite Palazzolo, AFP said. He was arrested by Thai authorities as he arrived at Bangkok's international airport, via Hong Kong.

Investigators reportedly tracked him down after monitoring his Facebook profile. He was being watched by Interpol and the Public Prosecutor's Office of Palermo, AGI Palermo reported.

Public prosecutors in Palermo described Palazzolo in 2006 as "one of the most important Cosa Nostra figures in 20 years, notably because of his key role between business and the mafia."

The Associated Press described Palazzolo as a fugitive banker implicated in the "Pizza Connection" drug and money laundering trial.

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