The Straits Times
Published on Dec 20, 2012

Thailand to extradite Italian accused of mob ties


BANGKOK (AP) - A Thai court on Thursday ordered the extradition of a fugitive Italian banker found guilty of laundering money for some of Italy's top mobsters through New York pizzerias in the 1970s and 80s.

Handcuffed and dressed in an orange prison uniform, Vito Roberto Palazzolo told a judge, "This is not the rule of law!" Guards then escorted him to a prison van where he commented to reporters, "I'm very happy to go back home." Palazzolo was convicted in Italy in 2006 following the "Pizza Connection" investigation, which exposed a US$1.6 billion (S$1.95 billion) heroin and cocaine smuggling operation that used New York pizzerias as fronts from 1975 to 1984. He was sentenced to nine years in prison for links to the Mafia.

The 65-year-old Sicilian was arrested at Bangkok's airport on March 30 as he prepared to board a flight to South Africa, his adopted homeland, where he went by the name Robert von Palace Kolbatschenko.

Palazzolo's visibly shaken wife, Tirtza, called the ruling "a disgrace to Thailand" and told reporters she hoped to block the extradition on appeal.