A mafia boss found living in London has been denied bail while Italian authorities seek his extradition.
Domenico Rancadore headed a family involved in extortion, racketeering and drug trafficking, Italian police claim.
The 64-year-old was arrested on Wednesday at a house in Uxbridge under a European Arrest Warrant.
A judge at Westminster Magistrates’ Court denied Rancadore bail and scheduled a full extradition hearing for 25 November.
A new arrest warrant was issued for Rancadore earlier after his lawyers claimed there were “significant deficiencies” in the original warrant.
He was then rearrested and refused bail by District Judge Quentin Purdy who said Rancadore had “actively evaded apprehension for a significant period of time”.
‘Not well known’
The new warrant states Rancadore was one of the heads of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, which was “one of the most powerful mafia associations in Italy made up of thousands of members spreading terror”.
Commenting on the initial arrest, Italian deputy prime minister and interior minister Angelino Alfano said an “important mobster” had been arrested and he would “go to jail”.
Rancadore, a father-of-two, was initially acquitted of Mafia-related crimes after a three-year trial in Italy and came to the UK in 1993.
He was said to have been known to his neighbours in Manor Waye, Uxbridge, as Marc Skinner.
But in 1999 he was convicted in his absence of being part of a criminal organisation and sentenced by the Italian authorities to seven years in jail.
In a statement, the Italian Interior Ministry said Rancadore had “played the role of chief of the Cosa Nostra in Trabia, Palermo”.
Speaking from Palermo in Sicily, Italian journalist Tancredi Palmeri said Rancadore was not well known by the public.
“It is not a name that rings a bell but the authorities knew him very well as he was on the most wanted list,” he added.
At Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, Euan Macmillan, for Rancadore, said there were “significant deficiencies” in the warrant.
His client had come to the UK “as a free man on his own Italian passport with his family”, he said.
“He has led a blameless life in this country for the past 20 years,” he added.
Remanding Rancadore in custody on Thursday, Judge Purdy said: “There are concerns about the validity of the warrant that has come before the court.”
‘Way of life’
The BBC’s correspondent in Rome, David Willey, said the concerns about the original arrest warrant regarded the generic terms of the charge under which he was convicted in Italy.
He was found guilty of mafia conspiracy, a charge used extensively by Italian justice in pursuing mafia criminals.
“Now under English law, mafia conspiracy does not exist as a crime,” David Willey said.
“So although he’s been found guilty of extortion, which is an extraditable offence, there are problems and the Italians are quite aware that they’ve had difficulty convincing British justice that he is one of their most wanted criminals.”
The correspondent said the fact Rancadore was able to live in Uxbridge without raising any suspicions was very “typical of mafia criminals in Sicily”.
“It’s very difficult for Italian police to nab mafia bosses. They live often for years undercover and they’re protected by their families and friends and they merge into the background.
“This is what this man appears to have been able to do very skilfully in London just as he and many other mafia criminals have managed to do in Sicily.
“It’s a way of life and this is why the Mafia is such a problem here in Italy and why successive governments, who have battled against organised crime – particularly in the Island of Sicily – they find it too difficult to bring all these people to justice.”