Italian financier Michele Sindona should be extradited to Italy to face criminal charges of draining a now insolvent Milan Bank of $225 million, a federal judge ruled yesterday.
U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Griesa concluded "that the evidence submitted by the Italian government is sufficient to establish pricable cause of fraudulent bankrupcy as defined by the Italian bank law."
And he said, "This court will issue a warrant for the commitment of Sindona, so that he may be held until surrender to the Italian authorities is made."
Judge Griesa signed the arrest warrant for Sindona but stayed its execution until 2:30 this afternoon, when he scheduled a hearing at which he ordered the financier to appear.
Sindona left Italy in late 1974 when his worldwide financial empire, once estimated to be worth close to $500 million, was collapsing. He has been residing since then in an apartment in New York City's posh Pierre Hotel.
Prior to the liquidation of Sindona's Banca Privata Italian in 1974, the Franklin National Bank in which Sindona was the major shareholder also became insolvent. The Franklin failure was the largest in U.S. banking history. No direct link has ever been established between the collapse of these two large banks.
Sindona has been fighting extradition with the claim that the Italian governments request to try him is politically mitivated and that he cannot receive a fair trial in Italy.
The judge said he found no merit to the Italian's financier's contentions, and concluded "that Sindona has not made even a threshold showing that he would be subjected to procedures in Italy which would be so violative of human rights as to prevent extradition."
While the judges's decision cannot be appealed directly, Sindona still has same recourse in the courts to prevent extradition.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office here, which has been representing the Italian government, said Sindoan could apply to another district court for a rehearing. If that is denied, he can then carry his appleal all the way to the Supreme Court.
Neither Sindona nor his attorneys could be reached for comment on the judge's decision.
The basis for the Italian government's request for extradition are allegations that Sindona improperly transferred funds out of two banks that he subsequently merged into Banca Privata Italiana to companies outside Italy that he controlled, using foreign banks as intermediaries.