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Warrant elevated 'level of crime'
A second European arrest warrant issued for Mafia fugitive Domenico Rancadore deliberately elevated his participation in the organisation, his counsel has told his extradition hearing.
The 64-year-old, known as "The Professor", was arrested in London last August after evading Italian authorities for 20 years.
They accuse him of fleeing Italy as he faced trial over his alleged Cosa Nostra ''man of honour'' connections.
Rancadore was convicted in 1999 of Mafia association and extortion in Trabia, near Palermo, and is wanted to serve a seven-year jail sentence.
There were two European arrest warrants issued for Rancadore last August, and his counsel Alun Jones QC told Westminster Magistrates' Court that the difference between them is significant.
Mr Jones said that the degree of participation is "critically different", and that the level of crime has been elevated in the second warrant.
He said someone must have looked at the first warrant and thought it would be better to "raise it in to a different level of crime" as they must have thought: "That must be what the British court is after."
Mr Jones said it was a "deliberate decision taken to prejudice this man's rights" in front of the London court.
Prosecutor Hannah Hinton said he was "deliberately absent" from the trial that convicted him in 1999.
Referring to transcripts, she said Rancadore was described as being "at the heart of the organisation", a "district boss", and the "linchpin of the whole affair".
He is in custody after the High Court overturned a magistrate's decision to grant bail in November.
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 Skinner's British mother.
Police arrested "Marc Skinner'' under a European arrest warrant on August 7 at the upmarket semi-detached home.
Yesterday, 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 also said he 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."
Rancadore said he did not even contact his mother or father back home. "I wanted to end everything with Sicily," he said.
He wanted to be "away from the atmosphere", and said he was "under stress all the time" when he was there.
Rancadore, who had a stent fitted in his heart in 2012 and suffers from angina, said: "I try to live the best I can."
He said he is "not well at all", with pains in his chest, adding: "I feel destroyed."
Ms Hinton, the prosecutor, told the hearing yesterday there was no official record of Rancadore's name change, and no identity documents at his home.
She put it to him that he knew if he came to the attention of police they would find out his "true identity".
"You have hidden your identity because you knew you were wanted by the authorities," she said.
The prosecutor said that was why he changed his name.
Ms Hinton said that previously Rancadore has given one reason for wanting to start a new life in the UK, and said that he had not admitted before that he was worried about being arrested again.
"What I'm going to suggest, Mr Rancadore, is that when you came to this country, that you were worried, concerned, that you were going to be arrested again and now you accept that.
"But previously what you were telling the court was that you only came here to make a new life for yourself, having collected your pension," she said.
Rancadore's wife said it would be "devastating" if he was extradited. She told the court this is the longest they have ever been apart.
The hearing was adjourned to the provisional date of Friday February 28 at 10am at Westminster Magistrates' Court.