376 Italian mafia bosses and drug dealers to return to prison

376 Italian mafia bosses and drug dealers to return to   prison
The Italian Justice Ministry’s move had sparked an outcry. (AFP)
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Updated 09 May 2020

376 Italian mafia bosses and drug dealers to return to prison

376 Italian mafia bosses and drug dealers to return to   prison
  • The government decided to place prisoners over 70 years of age under house arrest after riots in March led by inmates fearful of catching the virus, which has killed some 30,000 people in Italy

ROME: Italy’s government is sending back to jail 376 mafia bosses and drug dealers who were released and placed under house arrest in recent weeks as part of a controversial plan to stop coronavirus from spreading in prisons.
Those allowed to go home include influential Cosa Nostra boss Francesco Bonura, 78, and Franco Cataldo, 85.
The latter was part of a gang that kidnapped and killed Giuseppe di Matteo, the 10-year-old son of a mafia turncoat, in Sicily in 1996. After the boy was strangled, his body was dissolved in acid. “It’s not acceptable. Whoever was part of that terrible kidnapping needs to stay in jail for life. He (Cataldo) can’t be granted mercy, even if he risks catching coronavirus,” said the boy’s mother.
The government decided to place prisoners over 70 years of age under house arrest after riots in March led by inmates fearful of catching the virus, which has killed some 30,000 people in Italy.
Among those who were granted release are some 60 Cosa Nostra mobsters from Sicily and 50 others from Campania.
They include three kingpins who were held in solitary confinement: Pasquale Zagaria from Puglia, Francesco Bonura from Sicily and Vincenzo Iannazzo, a leader of the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta, the most powerful and brutal Italian mafia group today.  Their release under house arrest has worried prosecutors and investigators. “It’s particularly odd to have let out those serving time under the country’s harsh prison isolation regime,” said Italy’s anti-mafia Chief Prosecutor Federico Cafiero de Raho. “People got carried away by fears of contagion, when thermal scanners would have been enough.”
Several prosecutors who criticized the decision to release the inmates said bosses allowed to return to their home turf would jump at the chance to reinforce their control over affiliates and local businesses, even if they were under house arrest.
“Once they’re out of prison, they can do whatever they want. They can give orders to their picciotti (as mafia members are nicknamed in Sicily). They can run every kind of illegal business. This is why they have to stay in jail,” Palermo Mayor Leoluca Orlando told Arab News.
“That may mean that the huge toll paid by policemen and prosecutors over the past 30 years to fight the mafia would be wasted. I can’t accept that.”
Justice Minister Alfonso Bonafede announced in Parliament that the government will pass a decree to immediately get all the released mobsters back in jail because of the “changed picture” of the coronavirus crisis in Italy.
The decree will require anti-mafia prosecutors to be involved in any decisions on releasing mobsters, he added.
Bonafede said there had never been any let-up in the fight against Italy’s mafias. He and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte promised their “maximum determination” in that fight.