An Italian justice official has complained to Spain after authorities in Madrid blocked more than 1'000 extradition orders against convicted members of the mafia, a newspaper reported on Sunday. El Pais said the head of extradition at Italy's Justice Ministry, Giovanni de Donato, wrote to Spain's Justice Ministry in February to protest at the blocking of requests for the arrest and extradition of alleged mafia members. Donato complained that the chief prosecutor at Spain's High Court had told police officials not to act on any requests for extradition of suspects convicted by courts who were not actually present at their trials, El Pais said. Under Spanish law, suspects must be present at their trials for the conviction to be considered valid. Spain was the only country in Europe that opposed arrest orders from Italy, El Pais quoted Donato as saying. Requests for the arrest of 124 of Italy's 240 most wanted organised crime suspects had been turned down by Spain among the 1'089 annulled requests, El Pais said. Fungairino told the newspaper he only advised police on his view of the extradition orders and did not tell them what to do. El Pais quoted an Italian legal source involved in attempts to crack the mafia as saying Spain was becoming a haven for organised crime gangs. “The Italian mafia is setting itself up in Spain for this reason. It's a real paradise. Some of the people we want are already there. Others will go on the advice of their lawyers,” the source said.

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