A Belfast man said to have had links with the IRA has been extradited from Africa to Italy as part of an anti-Mafia investigation, police have confirmed.
Henry James Fitzsimons (63) from the west of the city was named by prosecutors earlier this year as being wanted in connection with a £390m property fraud being run by mobsters on the southern Italian coast.
In March, 16 people were arrested in a series of raids but Fitzsimons (below) slipped through the net as he was in the west African state of Senegal where he was eventually tracked down and arrested. Extradition proceedings culminated yesterday morning with his arrival back in Rome after an early morning flight via Paris.
He was led away under heavy armed guard to a nearby prison.
Fitzsimons is being held as part of an operation investigating how mafia around the southern region of Calabria, known as the 'Ndrangheta, were laundering money through beachside holiday properties.
His links to the IRA were revealed by Nicola Gratteri, a veteran anti-mafia prosecutor based in the city of Reggio Calabria, who described Fitzsimons as someone "delegated by the IRA to recycle the proceeds of terrorist activities and to reinvest the financial resources of the movement".
Fitzsimons once served 15 years in jail for a 1971 bomb attack and was described as "one of the most active officers in the Provisional IRA during their bombing campaign" of the early 1970s.
He sent two armed men into a business who threatened the staff before planting a bomb in the building, which later blew up causing £183,000 damage.
He was also jailed for blowing up the Colin Glen bacon factory where he had worked and stealing the £7,000 payroll in 1971.
Italian police say there is no suggestion he is still involved with the IRA and said that the investigation is focusing on a development near Reggio Calabria known as the 'Jewel of the Sea' and which was confiscated by authorities.
'Ndrangheta is said to be one of the world's most lucrative criminal organisations.
Every year they make billions through drug trafficking, after building up contacts with South American cartels and they also trade in arms, extortion, building contracts as well as other criminal activities.
An Italian police source said they were still investigating as to "how and where" Fitzsimons obtained the money for the property investments.
Henry Fitzsimons (63) is from west Belfast and was jailed for his links to the IRA in the 1970s. Fitzsimons once served 15 years in jail for a 1971 bomb attack and was described as "one of the most active officers in the Provisional IRA during their bombing campaign" of the early 70s. He is being held in Italy in connection with a £390m property fraud.