This is a blog about justice. What happens when the system does not work? That’s where I come in. I am that voice.
Dear Mr Dinmore,
Hello, my name is Jimmie Staley; I am an American writer. I am writing you on behalf of Antonio Velardo. He is the business associate of Harry Fitzsimmons, who is currently jailed in a prison in Senegal You wrote an article about him http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/a0f07912-c6e7-11e2-8a36-00144feab7de.html
Mr. Velardo wants to set the story straight in regards to Harry Fitzsimmons and his wrongful incarceration on baseless allegations. Mr. Dinmore, Harry is being persecuted. He had–at one point in time–links to the IRA. That was in 1970. He no longer has any association. He paid his dues for his affiliations years ago. Now Harry’s past is being said to be connected to more modern day involvement with the same group and possibly even the ’Ndrangheta.
It seems as though that Harry’s incarceration is fodder for publicity on the part of Niccola Gratteri, the Italian prosecutor that ordered Harry’s imprisonment and millions of dollars of property and money seized that are associated with Harry and his business endeavors. Mr. Gratteri publicly admitted that no evidence has turned up yet that would justify the arrest but evidently that is unnecessary in the Italian legal system. Mr. Fitzsimmons is an elderly, sick man imprisoned in Senegal on trumped up charges. Mr. Gratteri previously has done this in the case of Tony Vallelunga, an Australian man that lost everything before Gratteri had him released because there was no evidence of the allegations. While Mr. Vallelunga’s arrest made international news; his release for lack of evidence was but a whisper in the media. But Mr. Gratteri got a great deal of face time in the media and even wrote a book on the case which he made a killing on. That simply isn’t right. Mr. Gratteri’s tactics are more reminiscent of Nazi Germany than that of a modern day free society.
Mr. Dinmore, someone needs to speak for these unfortunate victims of a media hungry, Italian legal system. Wasn’t it just a few months ago, the world watched the Amanda Knox fiasco in the same arena? It was incompetent then and it seems to be just as incompetent now.
Mr. Dinmore you must help me and be a voice of righteousness in this very blind legal system. This is unspeakably wrong. Someone needs to stand up and I hope you are willing to stand beside me in this crusade for justice.
Thank you very much for your time,
The last few posts have displayed the frustration I have with international justice malfeasance. The more I know about Antonio Velardo and Harry Fitzsimmons’s situation, the angrier I get. The American justice system isn’t perfect but it is a complete 180 from the European standard.
To think that an average person could possibly be financially ruined, financially bankrupt, socially ostracized at the whim of glory hungry legal entities is outrageous. I do not have the answer but I am sure that it is somewhere short of imprisoning first and investigating later.
Something needs to be done. I know my single, little voice is not enough to drive action. But maybe a larger scale effort would be recognized. Here is my proposal: if every reader of this blog shoots an email to any one of the international authors of some of these stories, maybe this get some attention. I know this is a small measure but a big enough voice could emerge from everyone working together in protection of the common good. While Antonio and Harry are not common folks, we as a society are. This could very well be any of us. It’s time to unify and speak on behalf of those who have been denied speech. America loves an underdog and champions human rights everyday. While the powers that be aren’t necessarily acting, we, the people, can.
I am asking for 5 minutes of your time to create a following for justice where justice has been denied. This can only result in positive actions. We can make a difference just as our forefathers This is about a principle. The greater good of mankind is in jeopardy if we let this injustice go unnoticed and unaccounted for. This is an important step we must make as citizens of society. I hope you are behind me in this endeavor. May God be with us.
When Antonio contacted me to tell his story, I honestly did not foresee how intrigued I would be or how involved internationally the story would be. But I am glad it happened that way. I have gotten to know Antonio a bit of over the little time we have known each other. I think it’s time to tell his story.
Antonio Velardo was born in Naples, Italy in 1977. At the age of 19, he went to London & then to Florida. In Daytona Beach, he studied to be a pilot and achieved a FAA Multi-Engine Commercial license at the age of 21. He travelled extensively after that and converted his pilot’s license from the US to a European one.
Antonio changed went to college in the UK in 2002. He earned a Bachelors’s Degree in English with Honors at Loughborough University. This is a very prestigious university in the UK. After he graduated, he moved to Spain where he got a job with a high end real estate agency. Within this company, he excelled as one of the top salesman. With an entrepreneurial spirit and a recently attained knowledge of real estate, he opened his own business. He sold and developed vacation or holiday homes in Southern Italy. Antonio then moved to Ireland where he met Harry Fitzsimmons, a Belfast gas station owner who he had sold property to in the past. He and Harry formed a business VFI (Velardo Fitzsimmons Investment) Overseas Property.
In 2007, VFI was hugely successful. Within the first year, they sold more than 450 units. By the age 29, from a modest upbringing, Antonio was a multimillionaire. This is literally the American dream fulfilled. All of us that have been taught hard work pays off see the success Antonio attained as the gold standard. Who wouldn’t want to be in his shoes?
In 2009, VFI won several industry awards. There were offices in Dublin, Stockholm, London, Moscow and the Ukraine. With the political and social unrest in his native Italy, Antonio took his business to Tunisia and began investing in distressed properties internationally. Eventually ending up in Miami in 2010, where he starts several different businesses.
Now cut to the dawn raid of VFI holdings in March, 2013. Property seized, people arrested without real cause, lives destroyed. For what? The ambition of a prosecutor who jails people first and investigates later? Apparently that is the standard in Italy. Didn’t we just go through years with Amanda Knox aka Foxy Knoxy? Trumped up charges and irresponsible prosecution that inevitably is thrown out. At what cost? Why is no one concerned?
The Trouble with Being Harry
Today he is accused of laundering money for IRA through his Italian property development projects. According to prosecutor Gratteri, our Harry is now linked his IRA buddies in with the notorious Italian mafia, ‘Ndrangheta.. Authorities say that our Harry and his business associates are colluding with this mafia cartel in a joint venture using “mafia intimidation through a complex network of Italian and foreign countries.”
To keep them better distinguishable, I will refer to our Harry as Harry James. The man that he is being confused with is Harry Joseph. Having the same last name of Fitzsimmons and living in close proximity seem to be one of the downfall for Harry James.
He now sits in a jail in Senegal. Granted an internet search and simple math skills, I was able to find the difference between Harry James and Harry Joseph. Clearly if one were trying to play off the history of one by making it a public spectacle by knowingly attributing wrong facts to the wrong person, that would be considered highly unethical. Nicola Gratteri seems to not have the same ability to decipher one Harry from another.
The prosecutors also alleges Harry James is the treasurer of the IRA, but there is no basis for such claims.
In the Financial Times on May 27, 2013. It is reported that Dan McGuinness, attorney for Harry James told the press his client “totally refutes the allegations” and has been involved in “legitimate business as a promoter of properties in south Italy.”
So what is the moral of the story.? I think there are a couple.. Maybe it is to never EVER name your kid something this common.
But seriously, this is insane.. How can one man sit in jail without recourse? He has no voice and the crimes he is accused of are not able to be substantiated. Isn’t someone mad as hell about the fact this could be you? A series of events could literally take you from the security of your home into a foreign jail, alone and dank. That is the scary part, the bogey man may just be an overzealous prosecutor needing to promote a story.
My day started off quite like any other. Checking my inbox for prospective writing assignments. Then I came across an email from a gentleman. I was captivated at his request. He wanted me to tell his story. The man is from Italy and his name is Antonio. He’s involved in quite a complex enterprise. His business partner, Harry is being held in a prison in Senegal. His crime? Having a past association with the IRA (Irish Republican Army). Harry’s previous dealings inevitably culminated in him serving time in a Belfast prison for the bombing of a hotel. After serving his time, Harry goes back to Belfast to stay there doing business for the next 20 years. When the Italian authorities embark on a campaign against him claiming he is laundering money through his new business dealings.
I have to say I was not at all prepared for the epic tragedy I was about to hear. Antonio’s story begins with him and Harry going into business together as luxury property developers. They are internationally known. Everything they touch seemingly turns to gold. Their mutual business endeavors are the proverbial cash cow in the Italian economy with properties reaching across 3 continents. This was no small operation. These men are the people written about in history. In 2009, according PRWeb:
“VFI came out overall winners in three categories in the 2009 Europe Residential Property Awards, property’s equivalent of the Oscars”
This is really above the norm for 99% of us but it is relatable because we as Americans believe in putting in a full day’s work and reaping the benefits. These men just happened to be parlez their visions into an enormous fortune.
In March 2013, unceremoniously, fate seems to shift. An onslaught begins to unfold. It is like something out of a movie. The Guardia di Finanza initiated a blitz style attack. In dawn raids, doors are busted down; property is seized. The total properties and assets seized is valued at approximately $588 million.16 people arrested.
This is all because they suspected there was money laundering operations run by the ‘Ndrangheta or Calabrian Mafia. The man behind this is Nicola Gratteri, whose name sounds familiar. After doing a little research, I realize his name should ring a bell because he is an Italian prosecutor who has written books about his anti-Mafioso arrests. He has a great deal of face time with the Italian media and newspapers. He develops a magnificent story spun around these arrests. It appears he is more interested in fame rather than justice. The only words I can think to use are “witch hunt”. A journalist, Duncan Garnham, reported that:
“Italian police have rowed back from their initial allegation. Claudio Petrozziello, district commander of the Guardia di Finanza in Italy, said Mr Fitzsimons (Harry) had a previous conviction for an IRA bomb attack but added: ‘I have no evidence to imagine a link, a concrete link, or even an eventual link, with the organisation.’”
This is all reminiscent of the Amanda Knox prosecutorial nightmare. The powers that be in Italy seem to cast aspersions and imprison people only to quietly release them down the road due lack of evidence. The arrests draw millions of cameras and fanfare , yet the release of the individuals is done so in a very inconspicuous manner. Between the former and the latter, the individual sits in a jail in deplorable conditions, financially ruined, personally dejected and professionally handicapped. This is observations of a layman. This story is absolutely appalling. What has society come to when this is the norm?
This is just the beginning of the story.
The question I have is why is the Italian government going after Harry? What is initially sent the red flag up for them to re-investigate? Why isn’t anybody willing to do anything about it?