>>84658>>84662“Married to the Mob: The diamond boer and the honeytrap” – Louis Lieberman - Part 3https://mg.co.za/article/2015-04-16-married-to-the-mob-the-diamond-boer-and-the-honeytrap/
16 Apr 2015
--Over the years, Palazzolo’s cultivation of the likes of then defence minister Pik Botha and MP Peet de Pontes has been revealed, and allegations raised that Palazzolo helped, or attempted to help, the then South Africa Defence Force turn diamonds into military hardware. Palazzolo’s property has been raided, stories about him published and many hours spent in courts as he fought off attempts at prosecution. There is a veritable mountain of paperwork on Palazzolo’s connections with South Africa.--
The paper trail on Messicati Vitale is smaller and it begins with a single photograph.
--In 2011 the Italian Carabinieri noted that Messicati Vitale, who holds the Mafia throne of the Villabate borough of Palermo, had travelled to South Africa. He had met, they learned, the Ferrante family, which had been settled in South Africa since the late 1950s, and which turned out to be related to Messicati Vitale.--
Investigating the Ferrantes took Italian police as far as a company named African Dune. Looking into it, in turn, brought up a business venture named the Zimbabwe Diamond Opportunity.
And, there, in a photo of seven people involved in Opportunity, was Messicati Vitale, a man already convicted as a mafioso in 2000, and now charged with extortion, influencing public calls for tenders and armed Mafia association.
--In the picture, Messicati Vitale half hides behind his uncle, Salvatore Ferrante. In the centre, leading the negotiations, is a man who wears the widest smile of all: Louis Petrus Liebenberg.—
Liebenberg, at the time, was regarded both as a crucial business partner to the Ferrante family and a new “family” member. He was in a romantic relationship with Salvatore’s eldest daughter, Giuseppina, called Pina by friends and family.
Born in 1964 in Port Nolloth, 85km south of the Namibian border, Liebenberg is the son of a pastor.
One day, a wealthy member his father’s congregation, Johannes Huisamen, decided he wanted to help the young pastor’s son. At the time, Huisamen owned the mining rights to some the most exclusive marine diamond concessions along the West Coast close to the Orange River mouth, including those of concession 10.
Perhaps he wished to curry favour with the Lord but, whatever the reason, Huisamen passed Liebenberg the marine mining rights to the concession. It is one of a few privately owned marine concessions, according to which mined diamonds can be sold privately and do not have to pass through the state.
In 2005 Liebenberg opened Wealth4u Mining and Exploration to work concession 10, which “has at least 600-million tonnes of diamond gravel to work”, Liebenberg told the Investigative Reporting Project Italy (IRPI), one of the groups that collaborated in this investigation. “There are up to two million carats of diamonds laying there.”
Two years after opening Wealth4u, Liebenberg’s fate became intertwined with Ferrante’s.
“It was 2007 when I met Pina at a restaurant in Johannesburg,” Liebenberg said. “I did not know that [the Ferrante’s] work method was to send out the women to meet wealthy men in South Africa. Pina and a friend of hers attended several restaurants where rich men ate.”
Pina is a typical Sicilian beauty, dark-haired with dazzling blue eyes. She is charming and fun, and men like her.
“Pina and I started seeing each other on a regular basis,” Liebenberg said of a time when he was mainly concerned with raising money to exploit the concession.
Liebenberg said the two started a relationship in February 2008, at a time he was going through an expensive divorce.
“Pina said she could protect me against my wife’s claims and that I could put all my assets in her name.”
Liebenberg mulled over the proposition, and then Pina introduced him to her family, an important step for an Italian daughter, who told him how much they wanted to help.