Among those expressing support for the move is former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis first gave “conditional approval” to the transfer of Enrico Forti back in 2020, but the request is finally going ahead now. | Marta Lavandier/AP

TALLAHASSEE, Florida — After years of legal wrangling, Florida will let a one-time Italian television producer and convicted murderer whose case has attracted international attention serve out his sentence in his home country.

Gov. Ron DeSantis gave the green-light to transfer 66-year-old Enrico Forti to Italian authorities on the same day that the nation’s prime minister Giorgia Meloni is scheduled to meet with President Joe Biden in Washington, D.C. Meloni also spoke to DeSantis about the transfer on Friday.

Both the Biden administration and the administration of former President Donald Trump had sought to transfer Forti back to Italy.

DeSantis first gave “conditional approval” to handing over Forti — who was convicted in 2000 of gunning down an Australian man and leaving his body on a stretch of beach near Miami — more than three years ago even though Miami-Dade prosecutors who prosecuted him objected to the transfer. Forti has insisted on his innocence, and previous media reports have pointed out how Italian journalists have questioned his conviction. His case has even been compared to Amanda Knox, the American who was convicted of murder in Italy but who was eventually freed.

Florida officials wanted assurances that Forti would serve out his life sentence in an Italian jail before handing him over. The governor’s office said the victim’s remaining family and Australian government are on board with the decision to have Forti serve the rest of his sentence in Italy.

Ryan Newman, the general counsel for DeSantis, sent a letter on Thursday to the U.S. Department of Justice stating that Florida had agreed to the transfer now because federal authorities have said that “the transfer is in the national interest as it is beneficial to furthering the relationship between the governments of Italy and the United States.”

Among those expressing support for the move is former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“When I was Secretary of State, we received assurances that should Enrico Forti ever be extradited to Italy, he would live out his days in an Italian prison consistent with Italian law,” Pompeo said in a statement. “I am confident that the Italian Government will fulfill their promises. Since this was a request of the Italian Government, this will go a long way toward fostering the continued strength of the diplomatic relations of our two countries.”

DeSantis’ spokesperson Bryan Griffin added that “additionally, this move is expected to bring considerable taxpayer savings to the people of Florida as Italy will assume the cost of Mr. Forti’s lifetime custody.” Griffin added that “such transfer approvals are not made without considerable examination. Today’s action completes the conditional approval of the transfer made in 2020 by the DeSantis Administration and concludes extensive negotiations and due diligence.”

Previous news reports have detailed how Forti, a one-time windsurfing champion, was charged with killing of Anthony “Dale” Pike, who had been shot in the head in 1998. Pike had flown to Miami to discuss a proposed deal between Forti and Pike’s father, Tony Pike, where his father had agreed to sell a famed resort in Ibiza, Spain to Forti. The resort became well-known during the ‘80s and was the site of Queen vocalist Freddie Mercury’s 41st birthday celebration. The Herald reported that at his Forti’s trial, evidence was presented that Tony Pike was suffering from dementia and alleged Forti was trying to dupe him.

Forti has acknowledged that he picked up Pike but denied shooting him and said he dropped him off at a restaurant. A key piece of evidence used to tie Forti to the murder was sand found in his car that is unique to the strip of beach where Pike’s body was found.

CBS News more than four years ago did an extensive story on Forti that examined the murder and raised questions about whether a German con man who was accused of running up expenses on Tony Pike’s credit card was actually responsible. One of the jurors from the trial also told CBS News that she was pressured to convict Forti.

Source: Politico

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