05/11/2013 Spotlight


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


divided. They must have received up to 15


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


years of construction delays and problems with planning permission.


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


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


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


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


Adams the site with the man Harry Fitzsimons introduced as the


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


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


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


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


that we were out there and had dealings with him.


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


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


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


cocaine traffickers, and there are drugs and extortion businesses worth


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


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


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


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


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


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


this area, large numbers of businesses struggle. Yet Harry


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


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


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


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


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


Fitzsimons went from strength to strength, ringing tens of millions


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


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


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


look. Those investigating the business of the Mafia face a


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


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


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


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


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


against the Mafia. A permanent bodyguard accompanies him at all


times. He agreed to an exclusive interview.


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


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


collected, they had been under regular surveillance for over six


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


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


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


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


money, coming from everywhere. Police also said that Fitzsimmons


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


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


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


in Italian because in English, I cannot translate correctly.


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


was the Italian police investigation. Italian police


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


and insider also tell police that property companies all across the


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


operated by Antonio and Harry Fitzsimmons. Staff were instructed


to delete financial records from company computers. In March police


made their move and seized the development. Antonio was arrested


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


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


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


strongest terms, but intercepted conversations revealed that he and


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


The relationships they both enjoyed had begun to come apart.


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


Spotlight understands that police believes it their best friend is


the senior Mafia man. Fitzsimmons denies in the strongest


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


Mafia schemer. However, the wiretaps prove


different. The surveillance of Paris


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


most significant against the Mafia here in years. this local


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


a home soil. Fitzsimmons was harder to get. Here


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


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


Italian authorities first began monitoring the man they say went


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


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


made to authorities here in Northern Ireland and Great Britain


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


prompted a lukewarm response until authorities here learnt of the


suspect involved. Italian police said that


authorities in Northern Ireland told them that Fitzsimmons was seen


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


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


organisation. It seemed that Harry Fitzsimmons's


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


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


organised crime, but Spotlight understands that Harry Fitzsimmons


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


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


was under surveillance for being involved at all levels of money


laundering. Spotlight spoke to a former Special Branch officer who


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


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


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


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


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


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


Provisional movement. Harry Fitzsimmons was also a name to


Garda authorities in the republic. Spotlight understands that the


Criminal assets Bureau in the late 1990s assisted with an


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


assisting Italian police with their inquiries. The PSNI would not


confirm what information they provided to the Italian authorities,


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


from its conception has laundered money. They have significant


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


He even maintains that Italian police made the allegations of IRA


money-laundering just for the publicity.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


when Spotlight contacted the Mauritius based director of the


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


Harry Fitzsimmons is understood to be keeping his silence.


The European Union police force normally would not comment on an


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


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


in Calabria. Harry Fitzsimmons intends to contest the charges to


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


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


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


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


months and often defendants incompetent it -- in complicated


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


and fight for his freedom.


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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