Italian diplomats reacted with fury tonight after a Mafia don who had been on the run in England for 20 years was told he could stay at home and “live in peace with his family”.
Domenico Rancadore, a former boss of the feared Sicilian organised crime mob Cosa Nostra, had been hiding in Uxbridge, west London, until his arrest in 2013 sparked extradition proceedings.
The Italian Embassy berated the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for a series of blunders during the process that delayed court hearings until it was too late – Mr Randacore’s conviction ‘expired’ under Italian law last October it emerged on Wednesday.
The 65-year-old, known as ‘the Professor’ because he had been a PE teacher, was convicted in absentia by an Italian court in 1999. Despite being ordered by a British judge in February to return to Italy and face a seven-year jail term, Italian authorities confirmed they can no longer seek his extradition bringing the extraordinary 18 month legal battle to a bitter end.
Mr Rancadore’s solicitor Karen Todner said: “Domenico Rancadore’s sentence in Italy extinguished due to age of conviction. I have sent a consent order for the discharge of Mr Rancadore to the CPS to sign. There has been a long and unhappy history of these proceedings and I am delighted Mr Rancadore will now be able to live in peace in England with his wife and family.”
After being found guilty in Italy of mafia-related crimes in 1994, he fled to the UK with his wife Ann, the British born daughter of a former Italian diplomat, and their two children Giuseppe and Daniela.
He became known as Marc Skinner, using his wife’s maiden name, because he wanted to abandon the “shadow” of his family name - in 1987 his father Giuseppe had been imprisoned for life in one of Italy’s largest mafia trials. Mrs Skinner set up a travel agency while her husband bought executive cars to chauffeur the clients.
His life was not always so quiet. During his time working for one of Palermo’s most senior crime families, he once allegedly sent a severed sheep’s head and an envelope of bullets to a priest who had spoken out about Cosa Nostra’s grip on his home city. A note with the bullets reportedly read: “One is for your head, one for your heart. One is for the coup de grace. This is your final warning.”
Italian authorities issued a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) in 2012 before British police tracked him down to his Uxbridge home the following August.
Mr Rancadore won the first battle in his extradition hearing in March 2014 when a judge overruled his own decision that prison conditions in Italy did not prevent him from returning there on human rights grounds, as the former mafia boss suffers from a heart condition. A separate case at the High Court involving a Somali man who was allowed to stay in England forced Judge Howard Riddle to change his ruling.
The CPS then had seven days to lodge an appeal but failed to do so in time meaning the Italians had to issue a fresh EAW and begin proceedings all over again. By the time the next extradition hearing was heard in February it was too late.
Italian law states that a sentence expires once a period of more than double the time of the penalty has passed. As this was seven years from October 2000 in Mr Randacore’s case, his lawyers were able to have his conviction annulled at a Palermo appeals court last month.
Their decision was only published on 25 March and sent on Tuesday to the Italian Embassy, who immediately forwarded it to the CPS.
A spokesman for the Italian Embassy told the Independent: “The key to all this is that the CPS failed to apply against the March 2014 decision to free Mr Rancadore. This forced Italy to start all over again with a fresh European Arrest Warrant but by the time of the next hearing in February this year it was too late.
“One year was lost because of the failure [by the CPS] to appeal in time. This was exactly what Mr Randacore’s lawyers were waiting for, which allowed them to appeal to the Palermo court forcing the conviction to expire.”
Legal experts berated the CPS for the “waste of time and money” spent on the failed case. Barrister Philip Marshall QC said: “Yet more incompetence by the CPS in the Rancadore case (allegedly): his seven-year prison sentence expired in October 2014.”
The CPS did not respond to questions last night. Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions said last year the “administrative error” that freed Mr Randacore “shouldn’t have happened.”
No one answered the door of Mr Randacore’s home last night but one neighbour claimed she was pleased he was not being extradited because “you never know who will move in”.
She said: “He seems a nice chap and it happened a long time ago.”
1994 – Goes on the run after being jailed by a court in Palermo, Sicily, where he ran the Caccamo and Trabia areas on the outskirts of the city in the 80s.
1999 – Convicted in Italy in absentia for mafia-related crimes. Sentenced to seven years.
Jan 2012 – Italian authorities issue EAW after an Italian newspaper reports he is in Britain.
August 2013 – arrested in Uxbridge. Met refuse to say why it took so long to find him.
March 2014 – Judge Howard Riddle rules at a Magistrates Court that he must be extradited but shortly overrules his own decision because of a separate case at a higher court, which ruled a Somali man should not be extradited to Italy on human rights grounds. CPS has seven days to lodge appeal but fails to do so in time.
April – Italy issues another EAW berating CPS for “comical series of blunders” and Rancadore is arrested again.
Feb 2015 - Despite an attempt by his barrister to argue that he could not face the same case twice, Judge Howard Riddle ruled there was no abuse of process and it would not be an abuse of human rights to extradite Rancadore. Judge rules he could be returned “within 10 days”.
25 March – Court in Palermo rules 2000 conviction “expired” since 4 October 2014 and quashes extradition proceedings
31 March– Italian Embassy receives publication of ruling and informs CPS.Reuse content