Tuesday 24 October 2017

'Mafia link' builder has fortune from real estate

Court accuses former IRA man of using Italian hotel to launder cash

CALABRIA: Magistrates identified Henry James Fitzsimons and VFI in connection with money laundering in south Italy
CALABRIA: Magistrates identified Henry James Fitzsimons and VFI in connection with money laundering in south Italy
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

THE Northern Irish property developer named in the Italian courts in connection with an investigation into money laundering by the mafia last week has apparently made a fortune from international real estate.

Henry Fitzsimons (63), a convicted IRA prisoner turned international property dealer, was a director of an Irish company that had €10.6m in the bank in June 2010 and paid out €4m in dividends.

Last week, an Italian magistrate accused Mr Fitzsimons of using this company – VFI Overseas Properties Ltd – to launder IRA money through a holiday complex in southern Italy run by the mafia. Mr Fitzsimons has categorically denied the allegations.

The company had cash in the bank ranging from €13.8m in 2008 to €16.7m in 2009, dropping to €10.6m in 2010. Mr Fitzsimons and his co-director Antonio Velardo were able to avail of occasional interest-free loans, according to the company accounts.

Mr Fitzsimons' opening balance in July 2007 was €215,000, which he subsequently repaid. VFI has since been wound down and last year Mr Fitzsimons registered another company in Dublin, which has not yet filed accounts.

Mr Fitzsimons was reported to be hiding in Africa after his name was linked to the investigation into the mafia's money laundering operation last week. He later emerged to deny any involvement through his lawyer.

He said his client travelled regularly to Italy and to Northern Ireland.

Last week, a magistrate in Calabria identified Henry James Fitzsimons and the company, VFI, after police moved against an alleged money-laundering scheme. Police seized property worth €450m and made a series of arrests. According to reports from Italy, a European arrest warrant was issued for Mr Fitzsimons, which detailed allegations of money laundering, allegedly for the IRA.

Mr Fitzsimons' lawyer also said last week that his client had not been involved in the IRA since his release from prison in 1981. The builder from west Belfast was jailed for 12 years for his part in a series of bombings during the height of The Troubles.

On his release, he ran a night club and a taxi company before following other republicans into the property trade.

Irish Independent

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