05/11/2013 Spotlight


05/11/2013

Hard-hitting investigations. A former IRA prisoner turned businessman remains in a Rome jail amid allegations of money laundering for the mafia. Jennifer O'Leary investigates.


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What investors didn't know is that in March or beat deposits would be

:05:00.:05:01.

divided. They must have received up to 15

:05:02.:05:37.

million euros for promoting a few glossy brochures. Fit Simmons made

:05:38.:05:46.

millions. Buyers like Russian lost out. The share also went to the

:05:47.:05:53.

Mafia and the Italian police have been watching every step of the way.

:05:54.:06:05.

In March, Italian police seized the jewel of the sea as part of an

:06:06.:06:13.

anti-Mafia operation. Over a dozen suspected Mafia members were

:06:14.:06:18.

arrested. Harry Fitzsimons and his business partner, Antonio Velardo,

:06:19.:06:21.

had become wanted men. I wanted to find out more. I travelled to the

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tip of southern Italy, home to jewel of the sea.

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For investors, this was to be their place in the sun. But the region is

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also home to a deadly Mafia gang. I am heading out now to the site of

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jewel of the sea. We have an unmarked police escort to get us out

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here. This is the role that many of the investors from Northern Ireland

:07:08.:07:10.

would have travelled on when they were checking on the progress of

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their apartments. Today, jewel of the sea stands derelict and

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unfinished. The VFI marketing brochure said, this is where you

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start to live the dream. Jewel of the sea was to be a 5-star

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residential complex, with plans for a restaurant, beach bar, a clubhouse

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with cabaret, swimming pools, tennis courts, the list went on. There are

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even plans for a golf course in the hills. And in the brochure, Antonio

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Velardo and Harry Fitzsimons signed off with a particular line. Now it

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is not just a dream. Many buyers have been left out of pocket after

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years of construction delays and problems with planning permission.

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Roisin Adams, like other Northern Ireland investors, will be paying

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the price for her decision for years. Without VFI and Harry

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Fitzsimons, we would not have invested money in Italy. So I would

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put the blame squarely at the door of Harry Fitzsimons. This is Roisin

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Adams the site with the man Harry Fitzsimons introduced as the

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developer, Antonio. She was, in fact, meeting with the mob. We can

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reveal this man is a senior member of a Mafia gang. UC, he had a sign

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of the rank. Probably he started his career in the 1980s to join the rank

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of gospel. Quite -- It is actually quite scary and frightening to think

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that we were out there and had dealings with him.

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This part of Italy is riddled with organised crime gangs. The most

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famous Mafia is the Cosa Nostra, based in Sicily. But here in

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Calabria, the Mafia goes by another name. They are Europe's biggest

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cocaine traffickers, and there are drugs and extortion businesses worth

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billions of euro. They are extremely dangerous and they are also

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extremely rich. In the 1990s, they essentially took over from Carson

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Nostra as the main business partner of South American drug cartels. --

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Cosa Nostra. That has given them enormous resources. That needs to be

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laundered. I would discover that this region is said to labour under

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the shadow of a Mafia that controls vast territory and the economy. In

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this area, large numbers of businesses struggle. Yet Harry

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Fitzsimons's company flourished. Extortion here is right. Few speak

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out. I met one restaurant owner who took a stand.

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He agreed to let police capture his evidence the moment when a gang

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member came to collect his protection money. He told me why.

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Here, few escape the attentions of the gangs. Despite this, Harry

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Fitzsimons went from strength to strength, ringing tens of millions

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of euro into the area through this marketing of tourist developments.

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But police feared the gang were behind the scenes, using the

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construction of the resorts to hide their money. They took a closer

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look. Those investigating the business of the Mafia face a

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struggle. Here, bombproof bunker 's pass for a state buildings. This man

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is one of Italy's most high-profile anti-Mafia investigators. This is

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him in July with the man facing charges for being the biggest

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cocaine trafficker in the world. He was captured in Colombia and brought

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to Italian police custody. He has become the face in the fight

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against the Mafia. A permanent bodyguard accompanies him at all

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times. He agreed to an exclusive interview.

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In 2008, police launched a major covert operation. Senior Mafia

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targets were put under surveillance. By the time this award was

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collected, they had been under regular surveillance for over six

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months. We have got a big problem. Police say they eavesdropped as

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Antonio boasted of his new-found wealth. He had picked up a new

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Ferrari and taken in 8.5 million euros in one week and was sitting

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on 40 million euros in the bank. We were hearing about money, money,

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money, coming from everywhere. Police also said that Fitzsimmons

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could leave the authorities to them, yet it was Antonia's movement of

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money that drew suspicion. -- Antonio's. You really have to

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understand how much he knows about what he is doing. I will tell you

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in Italian because in English, I cannot translate correctly.

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BFI was expanding. -- would be if I was expanding, but was so -- but so

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was the Italian police investigation. Italian police

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uncovered bank account in Italy, Ireland, Tunisia and Switzerland,

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and insider also tell police that property companies all across the

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Calabria and coast were operated by fake directors. They were actually

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operated by Antonio and Harry Fitzsimmons. Staff were instructed

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to delete financial records from company computers. In March police

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made their move and seized the development. Antonio was arrested

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along with the number of other suspects. Police were convinced it

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was all just a Mafia front and Antonio and Fitzsimmons knew it.

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They knew he was behind everything. Fitzsimmons denies this in the

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strongest terms, but intercepted conversations revealed that he and

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Antonio did not want to speak openly about their local partners.

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The relationships they both enjoyed had begun to come apart.

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Police say friends means beat Mafia. -- the Mafia.

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Spotlight understands that police believes it their best friend is

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the senior Mafia man. Fitzsimmons denies in the strongest

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terms that he was ever a part of a Mafia Skene. -- Mathieu Skene --

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Mafia schemer. However, the wiretaps prove

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different. The surveillance of Paris

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Fitzsimmons and Antonio was part of an operation hailed as one of the

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most significant against the Mafia here in years. this local

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journalists said that the gang had been cut out after taking a risk on

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a home soil. Fitzsimmons was harder to get. Here

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he is arriving back into Italy in August. An Interpol Red Alert had

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picked him up in East Africa. It had been five years since the

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Italian authorities first began monitoring the man they say went

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into business with the mob. There, they discovered to his IRA

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past. Spotlight can reveal that in 2011 the first formal request was

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made to authorities here in Northern Ireland and Great Britain

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for information on how we fit Simmons. Italian police say it

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prompted a lukewarm response until authorities here learnt of the

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suspect involved. Italian police said that

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authorities in Northern Ireland told them that Fitzsimmons was seen

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as a money launderer for the IRA. Harry Fitzsimmons says he never

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laundered money for the IRA and he has never laundered money for any

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organisation. It seemed that Harry Fitzsimmons's

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past had caught up with him. Harry feeds him and says it is against

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his believes that to be involved in money-laundering or any other

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organised crime, but Spotlight understands that Harry Fitzsimmons

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was considered by senior security personnel to be a leading member of

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the Provisional IRA's finance department from the early 1980s and

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was under surveillance for being involved at all levels of money

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laundering. Spotlight spoke to a former Special Branch officer who

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had been detailed to follow Fitzsimmons in the early 1980s. He

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was the first target I had that was purely on finance. We were put on

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to him on a full-time basis. He was there any meeting top people. He

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was not meeting gunmen and bombers and so. He was meeting the top

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echelons of the IRA. It was the first time I ever worked against a

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target of that sort of quality, if you like, that seniority in the

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Provisional movement. Harry Fitzsimmons was also a name to

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Garda authorities in the republic. Spotlight understands that the

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Criminal assets Bureau in the late 1990s assisted with an

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investigation into his bank accounts. They, like the PSNI, are

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assisting Italian police with their inquiries. The PSNI would not

:23:03.:23:07.

confirm what information they provided to the Italian authorities,

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but they did say that Harry Fitzsimmons was on the radar of the

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RUC for what they described as a fairly substantial amount of time

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at various points in the 1970s into the 1990s. Sources said that Harry

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Fitzsimmons was a top IRA man and a prominent West Belfast republican,

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but when asked to comment, Sinn Fein would only say he has no

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connection with the party. This man is a financial crime investigator

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who was involved in a number of PSNI investigations. He says

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protecting the finance operation was paramount for the IRA. The IRA

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from its conception has laundered money. They have significant

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control of their finances. If you breach of the organisation, they

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will kill you. Harry Fitzsimmons declined to be interviewed for this

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programme, but there was another person we wanted to speak to.

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Harry's former Italian business partner. He was last seen in April

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when detained briefly in Belize with 20,000 undeclared US dollars

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on board a yacht. Today he is understood to be a fugitive, but

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Spotlight tracked him down and he agreed to speak via a Skype video

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call. Why do think the Italian authorities want to speak to you

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and your business partner about money laundering? They don't want

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to speak to us, they just want to put us in jail. He says the money

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trail is totally transparent. It all came from genuine investors.

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He even maintains that Italian police made the allegations of IRA

:25:12.:25:17.

money-laundering just for the publicity.

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But with many millions paid out by investors, questions remain on

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where the money ultimately went. Where is the money now, Antonio?

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But the only shareholders were Antonio and Harry. You paid your

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sales of 4 million euros dividend. In fact, we can reveal that 6.5

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million euros in total was tracked by Italian police to their company

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in Cyprus. Police have also attract funds to a Swiss bank account and

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say that in the 2010 tax period, the company had an undisclosed

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income of 11.5 euro. Now, over a dozen companies that are part of

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the network had been seized. Many are just a smokescreen. Indeed,

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when Spotlight contacted the Mauritius based director of the

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company, he said he knew nothing about it. From his prison in Rome,

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Harry Fitzsimmons is understood to be keeping his silence.

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The European Union police force normally would not comment on an

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ongoing investigation, but told us that it was aware of individuals

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linked to the IRA have engaged with the Italian gang to conceal assets

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in Calabria. Harry Fitzsimmons intends to contest the charges to

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the Italian courts, but says he has still not been interviewed by a

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prosecutor awfully presented with the case against him. He expects to

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go on trial in the coming year. It could be a long process. The

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average length of a criminal case in Italy is four years and nine

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months and often defendants incompetent it -- in complicated

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cases can end up in this strange legal half life until a definitive

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verdict is reached. The full picture of what really happened in

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Italy remains a mystery. There has been limited compensation paid to

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the investors who will pay for homes they will never have for

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years to come. If you ever met Harry Fitzsimmons, what would you

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ask him? I just want asking where is my money? What did you do with

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my money and can I have it back? Local suspects in this major Mafia

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money-laundering case are due to face trial. Harry Fitzsimmons is on

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a 23 away lockdown after threats from other prisoners. He says he

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has not been allowed contact with his family and he has not have

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access to adequate medical care. He continues to contest the charges

:30:06.:30:10.

and fight for his freedom.

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A former IRA prisoner turned businessman remains in a Rome jail amid allegations of money laundering for the mafia. Jennifer O'Leary investigates.


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