Firstly, I would like to thank the South African and international media for their interest in my case which has been a festering sore in the face of the Italian justice system for the better part of 30 years now.
I have nothing to hide, unlike certain quarters in Palermo and in South Africa where the old apartheid-era ghost still wanders about causing mischief for reasons best understood by them only.
I just hope that, unlike in the past, the media will also listen to my side of the story and not just repeat false and slanderous statements cooked up in an unholy conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
It boggles the mind to think that, in spite of having been acquitted by the courts of Rome in 1992 of these very same false accusations – because, as the ruling noted, “the facts do not exist” – that the Palermo courts should again attempt to revive a 17-year-old legal corpse. What exactly they hope to achieve with this unholy séance, only Palermo can tell.
It amounts to illegal harassment and criminal persecution, and is in violation of my rights as a citizen of a free and independent South Africa since 1994.
Since 1984, I have been fighting to clear my name of false accusations that arose from a mistake originally committed by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (F.B.I.) (later rectified) when they confused me with Vito Girolamo Palazzolo – no relation to me whatsoever. I will be happy to share a copy of the original indictment with whoever is interested in writing the truth.
For the record, I was never convicted of money-laundering, not in Switzerland or anywhere else. I was however convicted in 1985 by the Court of Criminal Assizes in Ticino, Lugano, of handing $6 million back to a client – one Oliviero Tognoli – when the court decided I could not reasonably exclude that such money was going to find its way back into the drug trade.
I was never in any way connected to this despicable drug business, a fact confirmed by both the Lugano and Rome courts.
This client, who was a famous Italian steel magnate with corrupt links to the Sicilian construction industry, is still on the run from the U.S. authorities. The FBI considers him the most important link between the drug dealers and the Swiss Banks establishment, but not the AG of Lugano Mme. Del Ponte who though sentencing him to 5 years imprisonment, acted very lenient towards him and unfroze all his money.
I was charged – along with Enrico Rossini (former Credit Suisse manager) and Franco Della Torre former director of Credit Suisse – because I was the Chairman of this Finance trust company. Due to many reasons too involved to go into here, Rossini walked with a conviction of negligence only while Della Torre and I were convicted on the legal principle of dolus eventualis for handing $6 million in gold bars back to the client (Tognoli).
We did so under duress – a fact that the Lugano court recognized. The court also noted that none of the investigators or prosecutors ever though I was a part of the Italian Cosa Nostra or any other criminal organization. That has not changed.
But as the only non-Swiss accused, I was also given a 10-year “Landsverbot”, viz. banned from entering Switzerland for 10 years. While appealing against this unfair treatment meted out to me, I decided to move to South Africa because I liked the climate and because I wanted to get as far away as possible from the mess in Europe that was created by a small group of powerful and self-serving officials.
Because Switzerland was not part of the Shengen Countries, at that time – and in particular the principle of legal double jeopardy was not recognized in Italy- I was also tried by the courts in Rome on the same charges in 1992. Rome however recognized this fact, but because there was no legally binding statute in place, I was given another fine and a suspended sentence of two years. I was however acquitted for Mafia association.
I have paid the price for a mistake made when I was young and perhaps too arrogant. I was incarcerated for longer than was necessary, and the Swiss authorities had in fact to pay me damages for mistakes made by Madame Carla Del Ponte.
Mme. Del Ponte still owes the world an explanation for her grossly unfair persecution of an accidental victim – me – but I guess that being Sicilian you have to forfeit some of your rights.
The involvement of the apartheid-era Pretoria government was purely incidental. Peet de Pontes had offered to assist my move, the much-maligned name-change was forced upon me because of circumstances.
When I returned to Switzerland to fight my appeal, Mme. Del Ponte got me arrested and I served 18 months of unjust incarceration. Mr. Peet De Pontes forged my signature nine times to try and steal properties I had invested in while in South Africa. He was convicted for fraud and forgery, but unlike De Pontes, I am still serving my sentence, condemned forever in the court of false public opinion.
Because of ongoing legal processes, I cannot comment directly on the current efforts to somehow have me extradited for crimes I not only was never guilty of but have also been acquitted of twice now. Such questions are perhaps best addressed to the officials involved at this stage.
I would however like to bring following to the media’s attention: In spite of having been acquitted of being a member of the Cosa Nostra (Rome ruled that “the facts do not exist”), Palermo appeared to have found new allies on post-apartheid South Africa.
Following a visit to Palermo by former Scorpion boss Bulelani Ncguka former Minister of Justice, Penuel Maduna and Leonard Mc Carthy in 2000, Palermo again started a campaign against me, indicting me in absentia on patently false accusations from a Cosa Nostra turn-coat.
To this was added utterly false and slanderous accusations from former policemen André Lincoln and Abraham Smith, who accused me of everything criminal they could basically think of.
The SAP legal department, as well as Interpol South Africa, have requested the Judicial Authorities of Italy to return this farcical report named “Operation Intrigue” and not attempt to use it. This report (sent to Italy illegally) was requested back by the SA Authorities for criminal and departmental investigations against the authors. Italy ignored the South African request and charged me.
Now Palermo, in order to charge me again, had to start the day after my acquittal in Rome, March 28th 1992. So they were obliged to charge me as from the 29th March 1992 onwards while I have been in South Africa and not committed any crime.
Palermo has widened her sovereignty to include the Republic of South Africa and has the arrogance to charge me for crimes alleged committed in South Africa.
Suffice it say that latter one of the two gentlemen was convicted and the other one resigned from the Police service and conveniently was admitted to a mental Institution. It is very regrettable that the outcomes of the various court cases – where their false accusations were given a fulsome airing in the international media – were somehow never reported in the same manner by the media.
As for Palermo’s habit of relying on one-eyed witnesses of questionable repute to incriminate someone they had never seen in their lives, I believe that the South African Courts will be the correct place to test such “evidence.”