Harry Fitzsimons extradited from Senegal to Italy

The Belfast Telegraph has an update on the whereabouts of Harry Fitzsimons – a former member of the Provisional IRA who was jailed for bombing the Woodburn House Hotel in Belfast in 1971, he was released in 1981.  Fitzsimons was one of a number of people for whom arrest warrants were issued in Italy in March this year in connection with an alleged money laundering property scheme run by the ’Ndrangheta, the Calabrian Mafia.  As Mick noted at the time some interesting details were revealed

Mr Fitzsimons used a series of false names, according to the warrant, while via Velardo he had an extensive overseas network of economic ties. The warrant claims Mr Fitzsimons worked out of a property company in Dublin, VFI Overseas Development based at Central Chambers in Dame Court.

It furthermore states that vast sums of money were transferred to VFI Overseas Italia via London law firm, Giambrone and Law. From 2006-2008, more than €20 million was transferred to the Spain-based Italian Connection Properties via Giambrone and Law.

In this period, €75 million went through the Giambrone and Law accounts. [added emphasis]

In a number of telephone conversations with local media at the time Fitzsimons denied the allegations, and as the Andersonstown News reported on 15 March –  “Harry Denies Mafia Claims”.

Mr Fitzsimons told us he’s currently travelling on business but plans to be back in Belfast later this week.

In May it was revealed that Fitzsimons had been arrested in the Senegalese capital Dakar.

The Belfast Telegraph now reports that Fitzsimons has been extradited from Senegal to Italy

Extradition proceedings culminated yesterday morning with his arrival back in Rome after an early morning flight via Paris.

He was led away under heavy armed guard to a nearby prison.

Fitzsimons is being held as part of an operation investigating how mafia around the southern region of Calabria, known as the ‘Ndrangheta, were laundering money through beachside holiday properties.

His links to the IRA were revealed by Nicola Gratteri, a veteran anti-mafia prosecutor based in the city of Reggio Calabria, who described Fitzsimons as someone “delegated by the IRA to recycle the proceeds of terrorist activities and to reinvest the financial resources of the movement”.

And here’s another quote from Mick’s post back in March

Colonel Claudio Pettrozziello said: ‘We know from the terminology he used [in wiretapped phone conversations] that the money originated from crime. We can’t prove it was IRA money but we know he still had strong links to the organisation.

‘We are still hoping to catch Fitzsimons. We have issued the warrant for his arrest but he has already fled Europe, beyond our jurisdiction.’ he said. He added: ‘He knew he was involved with the mafia and we believe he himself had reason to fear for his life.’

The Belfast Telegraph report today goes on to say

Italian police say there is no suggestion he is still involved with the IRA and said that the investigation is focusing on a development near Reggio Calabria known as the ‘Jewel of the Sea’ and which was confiscated by authorities.

‘Ndrangheta is said to be one of the world’s most lucrative criminal organisations.

Every year they make billions through drug trafficking, after building up contacts with South American cartels and they also trade in arms, extortion, building contracts as well as other criminal activities.

An Italian police source said they were still investigating as to “how and where” Fitzsimons obtained the money for the property investments.

At which point it’s also worth noting this detail from a 7 March report

Fitzsimons said he built up his fortune as a builder after being released from jail in 1981.

Described in court as one of the most active IRA officers, Fitzsimons was jailed for bombing the Woodburn House Hotel in Belfast in 1971. He lived in Calabria, the ‘Ndrangheta’s area of influence, from 2006 until 2012 but says he had no dealings with them.

He said the money he used in Italy came from the sale of a garage and shops on Belfast’s Stewartstown Road, which netted him over Stg£2m (€2.3m) in 2006. He transferred Stg£1m of it to Calabria to invest in the beach-front developments.

His business partner, Antonio Velardo, was last seen, briefly, in Belize…

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