25th Oct 2016

Immigration centres are new cash cow for Italian mafia

Italian police on Wednesday (3 December) uncovered a mafia network in Rome said to have extorted millions of euros from programmes designed to help the city’s most vulnerable.

Thirty-seven people have already been arrested in a scheme that targeted immigrants and the Roma.

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“We have identified the criminal organisation that we call Mafia Capitale, which is Roman, without links to other southern mafias, but uses mafia methods,” announced Rome’s chief prosecutor.

The scam has reached the highest echelons of local government.

Italian news agency Ansa reports Rome’s former centre-right mayor Gianni Alemanno is among the 100 or so under investigation.

Alemanno, who was Rome’s mayor until June last year, allegedly received some €40,000 in kick-backs from a mob group spearheaded by Massimo Carminati, a former member of the far-right terror group NAR

Alemanno denies any wrongdoing.

But magistrates has so far seized some €200 million in assets in a racket that largely targeted immigrant and refugee reception centres.

The more traditional cash cows of the criminal gang like drugs, waste management, recycling and parks maintenance, were no longer seen as profitable.

"Do you have any idea how much I make on these immigrants?," Carminati’s second-in-command, Salvatore Buzzi, was overhead saying in a 2013 wire-tapped recording.

"We closed this year with a turnover of €40 million but ... our profits all came from the gypsies [Roma people], on the housing emergency and on the immigrants," he says.

"Drug trafficking is not as profitable,” he said, adding that they didn’t make any money in other sectors.

Ansa reports a cabinet secretary under the former center-left mayor Walter Veltroni coordinated the immigration scheme with the mob group.

The probe doesn’t end there.

According to the Independent newspaper, Rome’s very own anti-corruption tsar, Italo Walter Politano, may have also been implicated.

Rome’s current centre-left mayor Ignazio Marino had appointed Politano to the post.

Italy accommodation standards plummet

Accommodation standards for asylum seekers in Italy has steadily worsened over the recent years, according to a special commission in the Italian senate for protection and promotion of human rights.

“In Italy from 2011 a progressive deterioration of the accommodation standards for asylum seekers has been registered, which has worsened since 2012 and 2013,” it noted last year.

The conditions are so bad that administrative courts in Germany have suspended transfers to Italy “owing notably to the risk of homelessness and a life below minimum subsistence standards,” according to a report by the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe.

Italy, for its part, also has no structural legislation on reception conditions and no uniform reception system.

Some 28,000 first instance asylum applicants were made in Italy last year.

The latest spate of mafia revelations comes on the heel of an annual corruption perception index report by Transparency International.

Among the EU countries, Italy ranks last and on par with Greece, Romania and Bulgaria.

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