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Mafia man wins court battle stopping extradition to Italy

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Domenico Rancadore

Domenico Rancadore

Domenico Rancadore, left, and Anne Skinner

Domenico Rancadore, left, and Anne Skinner

Sicilian mafia boss Domenico Rancadore has been arrested in London after 19 years on the run.

Sicilian mafia boss Domenico Rancadore has been arrested in London after 19 years on the run.

Domenico Rancadore's wife Ann (left) and daughter Daniela leave Westminster Magistrates Court yesterday. (Anthony Devlin)

Domenico Rancadore's wife Ann (left) and daughter Daniela leave Westminster Magistrates Court yesterday. (Anthony Devlin)

Domenico Rancadore's wife Anne and daughter Daniela Skinner arrive home after Rancadore was arrested by police at his house in Uxbridge

Domenico Rancadore's wife Anne and daughter Daniela Skinner arrive home after Rancadore was arrested by police at his house in Uxbridge

An artist's impression of Domenico Rancadore (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

An artist's impression of Domenico Rancadore (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

Manor Waye in Uxbridge, London, where a fugitive Mafia boss has been arrested

Manor Waye in Uxbridge, London, where a fugitive Mafia boss has been arrested

Mark Skinner, aka Domenico Rancadore, lived in in this house   while on the run for 20 years

Mark Skinner, aka Domenico Rancadore, lived in in this house while on the run for 20 years

A court artist's impression of alleged mafia boss Domenico Rancadore as he appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

A court artist's impression of alleged mafia boss Domenico Rancadore as he appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

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Domenico Rancadore

Mafia fugitive Domenico Rancadore has won his battle against extradition back to Italy.

Mr Rancadore, known as The Professor, was arrested after evading Italian authorities for 20 years. They accused him of fleeing Italy as he faced trial over his alleged Cosa Nostra ''man of honour'' connections.

Senior District Judge Howard Riddle discharged Mr Rancadore at Westminster Magistrates' Court today.

Mr Rancadore was convicted in 1999 of Mafia association and extortion in Trabia, near Palermo, and is wanted to serve a seven-year jail sentence.

Mr Riddle told the court today that his original decision was to extradite Mr Rancadore.

In an original draft, Mr Riddle said he included that he was satisfied the European Arrest Warrant was valid and that extradition was "compatible with the defendant's Convention rights, including prison conditions".

However, in a dramatic turnaround, the judge changed his decision following the ruling in a similar case involving the Court of Florence and Hayle Abdi Badre.

Mr Riddle said: "The judgment of the administrative court is binding on me.

"The higher court accepted that a similar assurance given in that case was in good faith, but was not sufficient."

He added: "I cannot distinguish this case from Badre.

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"While it is true that I heard more up-to-date evidence than was available to the court in that case, my intended decision, as expressed above, was based squarely on my acceptance of an assurance that has recently, and in similar circumstances, been rejected by a higher court."

Mr Riddle said the requesting authority has a right to appeal.

Two European arrest warrants were issued for Rancadore last August, and his counsel, Alun Jones QC, told a previous hearing that the difference between them was significant.

Mr Jones said the level of crime had been elevated in the second warrant, adding that it was a "deliberate decision taken to prejudice this man's rights".

Today, Mr Jones described the second arrest warrant as "dramatic" and "lurid".

The court heard that Mr Rancadore, who has had a stent fitted and suffers from angina, was admitted to hospital last week due to heavy chest pain.

During the extradition hearings, the court heard from law professor and Italian prison expert Patrizio Gonnella who said, through an interpreter, that Italy has one of the highest rates of crowded prisons in Europe.

Speaking specifically about how health is handled in prisons, he said: "Today the matter of safeguarding of health is the biggest, the most critical, issue in our prisons."

He said he has come across many cases of prisoners "living in a state of abandonment".

In his judgment, Mr Riddle expressed appreciation for Mr Rancadore and his family's right to family life.

"He has been here for 20 years. He has a long-standing marriage and children who are now adults.

"He lives in a house owned by his wife. There is no evidence that he was worked legally," he wrote.

Adding: "In considering whether extradition is proportionate to his Article 8 rights, and those of his family, three facts stand out.

"He is a fugitive. I am satisfied his wife and daughter, at least, have known for some time.

"He is wanted to serve a sentence of seven years' imprisonment.

"There is an importance to honouring our international obligations."

Mr Rancadore, who has been in custody, was bailed pending appeal.

He was asked to secure his bail with £20,000 and given a curfew between the hours of 10pm and 2am and 10am and 2pm, as well as signing in at Uxbridge police station once a day.

Mr Rancadore and his wife, Anne, moved with their two children to Uxbridge, west London, in 1994 and lived under the name of Skinner, the maiden name of Mrs Rancadore's British mother.

Today, his wife smiled when the judge delivered his ruling.

At an earlier hearing, she said it would be ''devastating'' if he was extradited.

She told the court this was the longest they had ever been apart.

Police arrested ''Marc Skinner'' under a European arrest warrant on August 7 at the upmarket semi-detached home.

At a previous hearing, Mr Rancadore said he came to the UK to give his children "a good life", and to bring his time in Italy to an end.

He said the maxi-trial in which he was a defendant in the mid-1980s - involving 460 defendants, one of whom was his father - was a "terrible experience".

He said he was looked upon differently afterwards, even though he returned to work as a teacher.

He added: "I was a little bit worried that they would arrest me again."

Asked about changing his name to Marc Skinner, he said it was to end ties with Italy, adding: "This was the only way."

Mr Rancadore said he did not even contact his mother or father back home, saying: "I wanted to end everything with Sicily."

He wanted to be "away from the atmosphere", and said he was "under stress all the time" when he was there.

Mr Rancadore added: "I try to live the best I can."

At that earlier hearing, he said he was "not well at all'', with pains in his chest, adding: "I feel destroyed."


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