Ex-IRA man accused of key role in Mafia scam

Thu, Mar 7, 2013, 00:00

Reggio Calabria magistrate Massimo Minniti has identified Henry James Fitzsimons (63), the Belfast man wanted for his involvement in a money-laundering property scam run by the Calabrian Mafia, the Ndrangheta, as an “IRA extremist, close to Sinn Féin”.

The alleged involvement of Mr Fitzsimons came to light on Tuesday during a huge anti-Mafia operation in Campania, Calabria, Lazio and Sicily.

More than €450 million of property was sequestered by police, including 17 holiday villages.

An arrest warrant for Mr Fitzsimons was issued over holiday developments in Calabria, controlled by Mafia company Metropolis.

It states that the money used to set up the false property scheme came from the Ndrangheta’s huge drug trade turnover and from the fruit of “non violent” crimes committed by Fitzsimons, “most probably in Ireland”.

Huge sums

The preliminary investigations magistrate argues that bank checks revealed that Mr Fitzsimons had huge sums of money at his disposal.

He says that Mr Fitzsimons, along with 19 others, in particular a Neapolitan, Antonio Velardo (35), had a “criminal design” with a view to the development.

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.

Money transferred

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.

The list of surnames on the arrest ordinanze reveals a who’s who of Calabrian organised crime.

The warrant basically confirms media reports yesterday on the nature of the operation, claiming that Mr Fitzsimons is alleged to have invested millions of euros of “dirty money” on behalf of the IRA into tourist complexes on the Ionian coast of Calabria, controlled by the Ndrangheta.

An EU anti-Mafia commission member, MEP Sonia Alfano, said yesterday that many of her MEP colleagues still balked at the idea of EU anti-Mafia legislation because they saw that as an invasion of privacy.

“What we need is Europe-wide legislation along the lines of the laws by which CAB does such a good job in Ireland,” she said.