Italian held in Thailand on alleged mob ties

AP News

3/31/2012 2:02:39 PM - AP News
ROME (AP) — An Italian banker implicated in the "Pizza Connection" drug and money laundering trial has been detained in Thailand as Italy seeks his extradition for mob ties.Italy's highest court in 2009 upheld the 2006 conviction and nine-year prison sentence against Vito Roberto Palazzolo for Mafia association. Prosecutors allege that while working in Switzerland as a banker, Palazzolo laundered money for some of Italy's top mobsters, a charge he denies.Palazzolo's lawyer, Baldassare Lauria, said Saturday his client, now a South African citizen, had been detained by Thai police at Bangkok's airport on an Italian extradition request. He planned to fight extradition.The "Pizza Connection" investigation broke a $1.6 billion heroin and cocaine smuggling operation that used New York pizzerias as fronts from 1975 to 1984.Palazzolo admits that in 1982 while working as a banker in Switzerland he returned about $6 million in funds to the Mafia after being threatened by the mob. He said he was made a scapegoat in the "Pizza Connection" case since he was a lone Sicilian working in Swiss banks that were accused of laundering drug money for the mob.Palazzolo has written about his legal woes and getting swept up in the "Pizza Connection" probe on his website,