Italy to extradite mafia linked suspect arrested in Lebanon

Italy to extradite mafia linked suspect arrested in Lebanon
# 12 April 2014 21:50 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. Italy is seeking to extradite ex-senator Marcello Dell'Utri, a mafia linked suspect and Silvio Berlusconi's former political ally, who was arrested in Lebanon, Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said on Saturday, APA reports quoting Xinhua.

Alfano made the announcement while addressing the assembly of his New Centre Right (NCD) party in Rome.

"Mr Dell'Utri is currently held in Lebanese police offices. He was tracked down in Beirut by Lebanese authorities, which are in contact with Italian police in compliance with the international arrest warrant," Alfano said.

Italy will initiate the extradition procedure immediately, Alfano added.

Justice Minister Andrea Orlando was reportedly expected to put his signature and give the green light to the request of extradition within a few hours.

The mafia linked suspect was arrested Friday night, authorities said. According to local media, he was found in a luxury hotel of the Lebanese capital.

Marcello Dell'Utri, 72, was a most closed political ally and friend of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi since the 1970s, and founded with him the centre-right Forza Italia (FI) party in 1994. He was repeatedly elected to parliament with FI party, twice as senator in 2001 and 2008.

The Palermo Appeal Court issued a European arrest warrant for Dell'Utri on Wednesday, after police and prosecutors had revealed the man was not on Italian territory anymore.

Dell'Utri had left the country ahead of a final verdict on mafia association charges expected for April 15, and, according to prosecutors, there was a 'concrete danger' that he would not return to Italy for the ruling.

The anti-mafia investigation department (DIA) had also confirmed Tuesday that "a private mobile phone line assigned on Marcello Dell'Utri's name was identified near Beirut on April 3rd."

Therefore, Palermo court declared him a fugitive and issued the arrest warrant, and Interpol was alerted.

Palermo prosecutor Luigi Patronaggio was satisfied with the arrest of Dell'Utri.

"The arrest resulted from an excellent joint operation by anti-mafia investigative department and Interpol," the prosecutor said.

After the arrest warrant was issued on Wednesday, ex-senator Dell'Utri made known through his lawyer that he had gone abroad for medical tests a few weeks ago, but did not intend to hide from the result of the trial.

"I have learned of the abnormal arrest warrant for me, while I was already outside the country for some rest and medical treatment," the former lawmaker said in a statement.

Dell'Utri was convicted nine years of prison for mafia association by a first-grade court in 2004, and his conviction was then confirmed, but reduced to seven years, by Palermo Appeal Court on March 25, 2013.

According to the prosecution, Dell'Utri played a crucial role in connecting Sicilian 'Cosa Nostra' mafia with Silvio Berlusconi and his FI party, and with other businessmen.

His activities "constituted a concrete, conscious, and valuable contribution to the maintenance, consolidation and strengthening of Cosa Nostra," the first grade court wrote in its sentence.

Dell'Utri, who has always denied the charges, appealed to Italian Supreme Court after the appeal conviction and was allowed to remain free while waiting for the final ruling, in accordance with the Italian law.

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