Mafia defies Italy’s coronavirus lockdown

Mafia defies Italy’s coronavirus lockdown
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A Sicilian funeral for the brother of mafia boss Luigi Sparacio is said to have broken COVID-19 lockdown laws. (Twitter)
Mafia defies Italy’s coronavirus lockdown
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Police guard the entrance to a shop in Herculaneum near Naples, where the mafia has a considerable presence. (Reuters)
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Updated 16 April 2020

Mafia defies Italy’s coronavirus lockdown

Mafia defies Italy’s coronavirus lockdown
  • Photographs showed a funeral procession moving along the streets of Messina, the third largest city in Sicily

ROME: Mafia godfathers seem not to care about the coronavirus as Italian prosecutors investigate the funeral in Sicily of the brother of a former mob boss for allegedly breaching Italy’s COVID-19 lockdown.

According to Franco Roberti, the former national anti-mafia chief prosecutor, the mob may have decided to hold the funeral to demonstrate that they are still powerful — and that in Sicily organized crime is above the law.

Photographs showed a funeral procession moving along the streets of Messina, the third largest city in Sicily, attended by dozens of people.



Family and friends gathered to accompany the coffin carrying Rosario Sparacio, 70, the older brother of Luigi Sparacio, who was considered one of the most important heads of the Cosa Nostra in the 1990s and who eventually turned supergrass.

“Zio Sarino,” as the mobster was nicknamed in Messina, had been convicted of several extortions, while his son Salvatore was convicted of mafia-type criminal offenses and is believed to be affiliated with the Centorrino, Santovito, D’Arrigo clan.

The dead man’s brother, Luigi Sparacio, was once close to the Sicilian boss of bosses, Nitto Santapaola.

Sparacio was also in charge of maintaining the Cosa Nostra’s relations with the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta mafia on the Italian mainland before, in 1994, he decided to work with the authorities and reveal the secrets of the mob, along with the names of its several affiliates. Some of the people Sparacio accused are now serving life sentences in Italian prisons.

The news, first reported by the local newspaper La Gazzetta del Sud, has sparked a row in Italy where all religious gatherings, including funerals and weddings, have been banned by government decree since the beginning of March to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

In the cities hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic, coffins are awaiting burial, held in churches or in refrigerators, and the corpses of those who have died at home are being kept in sealed rooms as there are not enough crematories.

A funeral service is believed to have sparked one of the worst infection waves in San Marco in Lamis, a village in southern Italy; after the ceremony 500 people were infected and nearly 100 died of the coronavirus.

“People not only congregate in churches at funerals, but they even kiss each other in southern regions to express their condolences to the dead’s family,” Riccardo Pace, a sociologist, said.

No church funeral has been allowed since the lockdown started. Catholic priests can only bless the coffins once they are privately taken to cemeteries to be buried immediately.

That did not happen with Rosario Sparacio’s body. A spontaneous procession of family and friends who followed the car carrying the coffin was seen moving through one of the most populated streets in the city.

The police noticed the “gathering,” dispersed the crowd and opened an investigation to ascertain the identity of those present and sanction the illegal assembly.

“While in Italy there are no funerals and weddings, how is it possible that in Messina dozens of people accompanied the dead body of the brother of a mafia boss to the cemetery? Claudio Fava, president of the anti-mafia committee in the Sicilian regional parliament, asked. “Behind that coffin “there were cars, motorbikes and friends,” he told Arab News.

Rosario Sparacio’s family criticized the press and politicians after the row broke out over the funeral.

“You must leave us alone in our pain, we have not taken anything from anyone,” wrote one of the relatives on Facebook. “We are good people. If we really were those mafia bosses you proclaim so much, you wouldn’t dare to attack us.”

But the point made by the relatives of “Zio Sarino” does not convince former anti-mafia prosecutor Roberti.

“It was clearly a sign. They feel almighty. They feel they are above the law simply because they believe Cosa Nostra is the law in Sicily. So they feel they can do whatever they want. Even putting at risk of infections those who decided, freely or not, to join that procession and show their respect to the mafiaman,” Roberti, who is now a member of the European Parliament for the European Socialist Party, told Arab News.

“They feel they are so powerful they can dispose of people’s life. I am sure that most of those following the coffin received money from Cosa Nostra in the hard times of the coronavirus infection. That’s for them a way to thank the mob’s charity,” he said.

China rescuers drill new ‘lifelines’ to trapped gold miners

China rescuers drill new ‘lifelines’ to trapped gold miners
Updated 19 January 2021

China rescuers drill new ‘lifelines’ to trapped gold miners

China rescuers drill new ‘lifelines’ to trapped gold miners
  • Twenty-two workers have been stuck 540 meters underground near Yantai in east China’s Shandong province

BEIJING: Chinese rescuers drilled several fresh holes Tuesday to reach at least 12 gold miners trapped underground for nine days, as dwindling food supplies and rising waters threatened their survival.
Twenty-two workers have been stuck 540 meters (1,750 feet) underground at the Hushan mine near Yantai in east China’s Shandong province after an explosion damaged the entrance.
After days without any signs of life, some of the trapped miners managed to send up a note attached to a metal wire which rescuers had dropped into the mine on Sunday.
Pleading for help, the handwritten message said a dozen of them were alive but surrounded by water and in need of urgent medical supplies.
Several of the miners were injured, the note said.
A subsequent phone call with the miners revealed 11 were in one location 540 meters below the surface with another – apparently alone – trapped a further 100 meters down.
The whereabouts and condition of the other 10 miners is still unknown.
Rescuers have already dug three channels and sent food, medicine, paper and pencils down thin shafts – lifelines to the miners cut into the earth.
But progress was slow, according to Chen Fei, a top city official.
“The surrounding rock near the ore body is mostly granite... that is very hard, resulting in slow progress of rescue,” Chen told reporters on Monday evening.
“There is a lot of water in the shaft that may flow into the manway and pose a danger to the trapped workers.”
Chen said the current food supply was only enough for two days.
Rescuers drilled three more channels on Tuesday, according to a rescue map published on the Yantai government’s official twitter-like Weibo account.
A telephone connection has also been set up.
Footage from state broadcaster CCTV showed dozens of rescuers clearing the main return shaft, while cranes and a massive bore-hole drill was used to dig new rescue channels to reach the trapped miners.
Rescue teams lost precious time since it took more than a day for the accident to be reported, China Youth daily reported citing provincial authorities.
Both the local Communist Party secretary and mayor have been sacked over the 30-hour delay and an official investigation is under way to determine the cause of the explosion.
Mining accidents are common in China, where the industry has a poor safety record and regulations are often weakly enforced.
In December, 23 workers died after being stuck underground in the southwestern city of Chongqing, just months after 16 others died from carbon monoxide poisoning after being trapped underground at another coal mine in the city.