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Newspaper publishing company, editor threatened with defamation suits, damages by family over article alleging mafia connections

(MISA/IFEX) - On 25 April 2007, "The Namibian" newspaper reported that its editor, Gwen Lister, and The Free Press of Namibia, the company that owns and publishes "The Namibian", were instructed to pay N$7 million (approximately US$1 million) to the Palazzolo family, or face legal action in the form of five defamation suits.

In the summonses, signed by the Palazzolo family lawyer, Lucius Murorua, the plaintiffs claim that four members of the Palazzolo, alias Von Palace-Kolbatschenko, family were defamed through reports published in "The Namibian" in March, as well as in the free weekly newspaper "Informanté".

They are threatening to sue "The Namibian" especially in connection with a front-page story published under the headline "Mafia linked to Namibian gems" on 23 March.

In that story, freelance journalist John Grobler reported that the Sicilian mafia, by using front companies to buy existing but unused diamond buying, cutting and polishing licences in Namibia, had allegedly obtained an interest in Namibia's fledgling diamond-cutting industry.

The members of the family who are suing the newspaper include alleged mafia member and South Africa-based fugitive from Italian justice Vito Roberto Palazzolo, his brother Pietro Efisio Palazzolo, and two sons of Vito: Pietro and Christian Palazzolo.

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