February 16, 2008 / 1:39 AM / 10 years ago

Canada extradites ex-Nazi guard to Italy

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - A former Nazi guard has been extradited to Italy, where he has been convicted of committing war crimes during World War Two, Canada’s Justice Department said on Friday.

Michael Seifert, who has lived in Canada since 1951, was turned over to the control of Italian authorities in Toronto on Friday afternoon for a flight back to Italy, an official said.

Local media said Seifert was expected to arrive in Italy on Saturday via a military flight, but Canadian officials could not confirm that and Italian officials in Canada would not comment on the case.

An Italian military court convicted Seifert, 83, in absentia in 2000 of torturing and killing nine people while serving as a guard at a prison camp in Bolzano, Italy, in the waning days of World War Two.

Press reports say Seifert and another guard were called the “Beasts of Bolzano” by prisoners at the facility, which held Jews and political prisoners awaiting transfer to German concentration camps.

Seifert has acknowledged being a guard at the prison, but denied that he had killed anyone.

He was born in 1924 in Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union, and began work as a guard in the Nazi SD after the German occupation.

He moved to Canada after the war, claiming to be from Estonia, and found employment as a mill worker in Vancouver, where he raised a family and lived until he was arrested at Italy’s request in 2002.

Seifert fought his extradition in Canadian courts, but the Supreme Court of Canada refused last month to hear his appeal.

Seifert’s lawyers had argued he had been convicted unfairly in Italy and that Canadian officials were biased against him in allowing the extradition.

The Canadian Jewish Congress said it welcomed news of the extradition, saying it showed Canada was not a safe hiding place for people wanted for war crimes.

“We are relieved and grateful that this individual is heading home to face the justice he has evaded for far too long,” the group’s co-president, Sylvain Abitbol, said.

The group has estimated that 1,000 to 3,000 people with Nazi pasts were able to get into Canada illegally between 1947 and 1956.

Reporting Allan Dowd, Editing by Peter Galloway

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