The Italians, Palazzolo and Double Jeopardy


Following the Swiss court action, the Attorney General at the Court of Palermo also got involved and on 11.06.1985, the Investigating Judge in Palermo, Dr. Falcone, issued a warrant of arrest against Palazzolo, for precisely the same facts that had formed the subject of the Swiss investigation (transfer of funds from USA – Switzerland).

Giovanne Falcone

Giovanne Falcone

These duplicate actions against Palazzolo created a conflict in jurisdiction between the Court in Rome and the Court in Palermo. Not forgetting that he was being tried, meanwhile, in Switzerland, for the same facts. This was resolved on 9.01.1990 by the Supreme Court of Appeal, in Italy. They established that the Court in Rome had jurisdiction with regards to the crimes under article 75 Law 685/75 (association with the purpose of financing for narcotics trafficking) and 416 bis of the Criminal Code (Mafia association), while the Court in Palermo had jurisdiction in relation to articles 71 and 74 of Law 685/75 (association aimed at the illegal trafficking in narcotics).


The Court in Rome handed down judgment on 28 March 1992, sentencing Palazzolo to two years imprisonment for the crime of narcotics trafficking. This duplicate sentence happened only because at the time there was no convention between the two Countries that recognised the “ne bis in idem” [double jeopardy] principle. But in regard to the crime of Mafia Association, Palazzolo was acquitted with the statement “BECAUSE THE FACT DOES NOT EXIST”.


In the meantime, in the First Order hearing at the Court in Palermo, judgment was handed down on 12.10.2000 sentencing Palazzolo to 12 years’ imprisonment. And this despite stating that the facts under review were the same as the ones that formed the subject of the Swiss judgement. Once again the DOUBLE JEOPARDY principle went unrecognized.

But not for long. During the delay for the Second Order judgment before the Appeal Court in Palermo, on the 05.10.2001, the Republic of Italy ratified the Cooperation Treaty (concerning double jeopardy) between Italy and Switzerland. As a result, on the 22.7.2003. the Palermo Court of Appeal sanctioned the fact that the criminal action against Palazzolo could not proceed.

But since then and despite the fact that Palazzolo has been absent from Italy since 1982, the Italian authorities have conducted an all-out judicial offensive against him. Needless to say, as a result of this orchestrated campaign which extends even into South Africa where he lives, his liberty and human rights have been seriously compromised.