A Sicilian Mafia boss who evaded Italian justice for two decades while hiding out in west London has returned to suburban living after a court ruled against extraditing him.
Domenico Rancadore, 65, was told that he could remain with his family in Britain despite being pursued to serve a seven-year jail sentence in his native Italy for being the head of a Mafia family who had taken a kickback from a government contract.
Senior district judge Howard Riddle said he was bound by a higher court’s ruling that Mr Rancadore faced inhuman and degrading treatment in the Italian prison system. In an original draft of his judgment, Mr Riddle, at Westminster magistrates’ court, said he found the European arrest warrant was valid and that extradition was “compatible with the defendant’s convention rights, including prison conditions”.
But on Monday the judge changed his decision following a ruling in a similar case in Italy. A court in Florence found there was an insufficient assurance that if another defendant was returned to Italy he would not face the risk of being exposed to prison conditions that would breach his human rights. Lower courts in England are bound by this verdict.
Mr Rancadore was bailed while Italian authorities appeal.
Prisons in the country were so dire that the Italian President last year called for immediate action from parliament owing to the “very many violations on the ban of inhuman and degrading treatment”.
Mr Rancadore, who was on an electronic tag on Monday, has been held in custody for months and left court with his face covered.
Mr Rancadore’s 1998 trial in Italy, held in his absence, heard from witnesses who gave evidence of their involvement in Mafia crime including extortion and murder. Mr Rancadore was described as the head of the Trabia Mafia family and was seen as an important reference point for the people at the top of the organisation.
As a “man of honour” – a member of the Sicilian Mafia – his role implied an obligation “to increase the ability of the family to subtly and violently infiltrate the social fabric”, according to Judge Riddle’s ruling.
In 1999, two years were knocked off the sentence because of a lack of information about his “prominent position within the organisation, and his involvement in serious crimes of violence”.
He had been acquitted of Mafia association in the Maxi trial in 1987, when hundreds of Mafia men were convicted.
Mr Rancadore claimed to have fled Sicily in 1994 and changed his name to avoid his family’s Mafia associations. “He made a deliberate decision 20 years ago to walk away from the Mafia and all that is associated with it,” said Karen Todner, for the defence.
“He has led a blame-free existence in the United Kingdom where he has resided peacefully with his wife and family.” He lived in Britain without trace for 20 years,under the name Marc Skinner. He and his wife, Ann, the daughter of an Italian consul, their daughter Daniela, 34, and son Giuseppe, 36, changed their surnames to Skinner, his mother-in-law’s maiden name.
Mr Rancadore did not work, he had no national insurance number or passport and his home was in his wife’s name. He was arrested last year during a police raid.
His daughter, Daniela, said that she believed a former boyfriend told the police that her father had been convicted in Italy for Mafia association.