I would like to ask my detractors – the prosecutors in Palermo, followed by Rome and South Africa and of course the Press – Where is my crime? What crime did I commit that for nearly 30 years now I have been bounced from one court to the next, fighting for my judicial life? If there is even a scintilla of evidence against me – not the patently fabricated rubbish brought to date – produce it, please.
Nothing was found at the beginning and no new evidence has yet been produced to change or alter my first sentence, in Switzerland in September 1985, which became final and irrevocable in May 1994, that I had acted in Dolus Eventualis, meaning “somewhere between intent and negligence”.
So I ask again, for all the accusations and allegations made against me, Where is my crime?
But there is none. So what is there? There is a conspiracy.
I was born Vito Roberto Palazzolo on 31 July 1947 in Terrasini, Sicily to a well established and respected Sicilian family whose roots date back to the 12 century. My great Grandfather married a Russian Princess called Kolbatschenko, which is why when, wishing to go unnoticed as Palazzolo, I changed my name to von Palace Kolbatschenko. In 1962, I left home at the age of 15 and moved to Switzerland. I completed my studies in Switzerland and Germany. In 1986 I settled in South Africa, where I still live to date. In 1982, after several years as a successful private banker, I was offered the chairmanship of Consultfin SA, the financial services arm of one of the three major Swiss banks, in Lugano, Switzerland. Whilst most of my clients followed me to Consultfin, I naturally inherited new clients from the bank’s own portfolio. As a result, we had a substantial portfolio, worth many millions of dollars, managed partly at our discretion, but also partly according to clients’ instructions.
In October of 1982, as a Swiss banker, I was making enquiries as to the destination of funds for transferring for one of my clients. I was told ‘…instead of being interested in the identity of the people, you would do better to immediately arrange for the return of the funds’. This was the moment I realised that the funds in question belonged to the Mafia. In fear of my life, I did as told and returned the funds in question ($6m), for which, 3 years later, I was duly charged by the Court in Lugano in Switzerland. I wasn’t charged with being in the Mafia, or for money laundering (having done so unknowingly), but for having been, in effect, negligent. In other words I should have guessed or known that the money I gave back to my client might have gone back into the drug trade. Which is an odd conviction for a man who returned money to it’s owners who – not only metaphorically – held a gun to his head.
The Pizza Connection, Swiss Banking and International Pressure
An odd conviction… which could be explained by International pressure and politics at the time: The Pizza Connection, as it became known, where the Mafia sold heroin through pizza parlours in New York and who’s money I was inadvertently investing, had blown into a major International affair. The US was incensed that Swiss bankers had been laundering their narco dollars, apparently, without pause. Switzerland itself was on trial and the Americans demanded that heads – which lay on Swiss banking shoulders – would roll. To which there was a simple answer. There was one Swiss banker who wasn’t a Swiss national, better still, he was Sicilian. He was me, Vito Roberto Palazzolo. So mine was the first head to roll.
Double Jeopardy or ne bis in idem
So, tried and convicted in a European Court, that should have been the end of it. But instead it was somewhere near the beginning of a saga that goes on to this day, where I have been accused of many things from running guns for the apartheid regime in South Africa, to administering the Mafia’s financial empire (from my home in Franschoek!) in Venezuela, Brazil, Mexico, Canada and the Far East. The sheer scale of it is comically absurd. Most of the allegations come from the prosecutors and judges in Palermo in Sicily, contriving evidence from a string of State witnesses (or Pentiti), none of which ever stood up in court. The remainder have come from the prosecuting authorities in South Africa who, given the paucity of their “evidence”, have been led by Palermo.
According to the principle of double jeopardy or ne bis in idem, a man or woman cannot be tried for the same thing twice. Since 1985 I have been tried, repeatedly, for precisely the same thing.
The Press, naturally, using the full spectrum of allegations made by the prosecuting authorities in Palermo and South Africa, have had a field day. So much so that even Wikipedia, who claim above all to be neutral, have written a partisan biography about me, which is being strongly contested. While they have modified some of it and continue to review it, they still paint a very dark portrait of a man who was only ever conclusively convicted for having handed back money to it’s rightful owners who, anyway, had threatened him.
When I got to South Africa, being hounded by the Press, I changed my name to von Palace Kolbatschenko (including my great grandmother’s name). I did this so that I could travel and live unobserved as Palazzolo. But even this name change, to von Palace Kolbatschenko, the Press picked up as an attempt by me to sidestep the law.
What the Press have failed to pick up is that, as Palazzolo or as von Palace Kolbatschenko, I have never sidestepped the law but faced it directly and without reservation, in court. It was never in court that I was found guilty, but merely in the court of hearsay and allegation.
Where’s the Fire?
With so much smoke (5 different countries, multiple courts, a wide array of pentiti over 27 years) where is the fire? Someone, somewhere, orchestrating their attacks through the prosecutors in Palermo and South Africa, is out to get me. I have no proof of the conspiracy but the continued variety of allegations from unlikely characters like Antonino Giuffre – who admitted that we had never met, but nevertheless knew that I administered the Mafia’s billions around the world! – is proof enough.
I upset the applecart of Swiss banking when I was tried there, in the heart of the establishment. They tried hard to have me extradited to Italy, so that they could then have washed their hands of me and the embarrassing business of Mafia drug money laundering through eminent Swiss banks. But the rule of law, as it must in a pluralistic, democratic society, prevailed. I was tried in Switzerland. Which meant they had to air their own dirty laundry. Which is why two of my Swiss colleagues, the men who had set up the deposit system in the first place, joined me in the dock.
The rest is history. Except for being negligent, I was acquitted in all courts on every count and allegation ever made against me. Since when nothing new has ever been brought before the courts that wasn’t dealt with, comprehensively, by the first court in Lugano in 1985.
But many people stood to benefit from my sentencing, and I was the perfect scapegoat.