Italian authorities have started seizing the SA assets of Vito Palazzolo, previously based in the Western Cape, and once viewed as one of the most powerful figures in the Italian mafia, Cosa Nostra.

AmaBhungane reports that after decades of chasing, Italian authorities are zooming in on SA, which for years offered him sanctuary and shielded him from arrest. Palazzolo, who also goes by the name Robert von Palace Kolbatschenko, is sometimes referred to as 'the Gupta of the 90s' by some in local police and legal circles, given his alleged influence on politicians back then.

In the mid-90s he was suspected of having National Party and ANC figures in his pocket.

Based in Western Cape at the time, he was also suspected of having several controversial local characters working as foot soldiers for Cosa Nostra, including rumoured intelligence operative and nightclub security kingpin Cyril Beeka.

These individuals were in turn suspected of crimes including firearm smuggling, drug dealing and illicit diamond buying.

Palazzolo was never convicted of any crime in SA and still has several deep connections in this country. But he has been jailed in Switzerland, Thailand and Italy, where he remains after being released on probation earlier this year.

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