A convicted mafia don has avoided extradition back to Italy after a judge at Westminster magistrates' court ruled that he was bound by a decision of the European Court of Human Rights preventing extradition to Italy due to overcrowding in Italian jails, reports the BBC.
Domenico Rancadore is a Sicilian-born Mafioso, convicted by an Italian court in 1999 for his associations with organised crime and sentenced to a seven-year prison term, despite already being on the run in the UK.
You might expect a criminal like Rancadore to live a high-life in exile, something akin to those depicted in Hollywood films, where organised-crime bosses enjoy the trappings of wealth away from the police that seek to bring them to justice.
However, the story of Rancadore is all the more remarkable because he lives not in a mansion in a secluded part of Britain, but in a bungalow in suburban Uxbridge with his wife and two children.
Rancadore was born and brought up in Sicily, where he rose to prominence as the head of the 'Cosa Nostra' ('Our Thing') in the Sicilian town of Trabia. He earned himself the nickname 'The Professor', and is thought to have participated in organised crime for most of his early life.
In 1993 Rancadore was acquitted of association with the Mafia, and swiftly moved to the UK in 1994, where he settled with his British-born wife, Anne Skinner. Soon after he adopted the pseudonym 'Marc Skinner' and with his wife opened a travel agency in Uxbridge.
In 1999 he was convicted in his absence by an Italian court for his Mafia associations, but the Italian Government were unable to secure his extradition from the UK, because 'mafia association' is not a crime in its own right in the UK.
European Arrest Warrant (EAW)
The Italian authorities thus set about obtaining a 'European Arrest Warrant', a type of pan-European police warrant which obliges any member state to promptly arrest, detain and extradite any citizen subjected to one, including nationals of the arresting member state.
EAWs were introduced in 2004 in eight leading member states including the UK, and were introduced by Italy in 2005. Although typically such an arrest would have required the offence in question to be illegal in the country where the offence was committed and the country where the arrest is made, this rule of 'double criminality' is waived under EAW rules for a wide range of offences, thus making it irrelevant that 'mafia association' is not a crime in the UK.
Rancadore was arrested in August 2013 once the UK authorities were aware of the EAW issued by the Italians for his capture and extradition.
However, a judge at Westminster Magistrates' Court yesterday ruled that Rancadore could not be extradited to Italy, because of a recent judgment by the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Somali businessman Hayle Abdi Badre, which ruled that extradition to Italy was currently illegal because of overcrowding in Italian prisons.
District judge Howard Riddle said the decision of the European Court was binding on UK courts.
"The judgment of the Administrative Court is binding on me," he said.
Speaking after the judgment Rancadore's lawyer Karen Todner said she was 'delighted' with the ruling.
"It's almost impossible to defeat a European arrest warrant but we have been successful today so I'm delighted with the decision."