Arrests made over mafia plan to profit from Italy lockdown

Charges range from extortion, getting stolen goods, money laundering, drug trafficking and fraud. (Social media)
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Updated 13 May 2020

Arrests made over mafia plan to profit from Italy lockdown

  • Right after the national lockdown started on March 9, prosecutors warned that the mafia would try their best to profit from the pandemic

ROME: Italian police arrested 91 mafia bosses, underlings, loan sharks and frontmen belonging to two Palermo clans operating in Milan, in a probe into the mob’s efforts to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to infiltrate the country’s economy.
Other Sicilian clans, including the Acquasanta and the Arenella, were also hit by the police raid.
Prosecutors in Palermo, Sicily, said the Cosa Nostra was set to spring into action and snap up crisis-hit firms that were forced to shut down because of the national lockdown to stop the spread of COVID-19.
The two Palermo clans, the Ferrante and the Fontana, allegedly coordinated criminal activities from Milan, police said.
Charges range from mafia association to extortion, receiving stolen goods, money laundering, drug trafficking and a range of fraud, police said.
The three brothers leading the Fontana clan, Angelo, Giovanni and Gaetano, were captured in Milan. Police also arrested a former “Big Brother” contestant accused of acting as a frontman for the mob.
Crime experts have warned that the mafia could take over struggling businesses and curry favor among the population by distributing food to the needy.
Along with traditional criminal activities such as extortion, drug trafficking and illegal betting, the Palermo mobsters had already branched out into the legal economy.
They controlled the local boat yard, market, butcher, bars and supermarkets, and traded in coffee and luxury watches.
Right after the national lockdown started on March 9, prosecutors warned that the mafia would try their best to profit from the pandemic.
“In the last few decades, they’ve invested in multi-service companies (canteens, cleaning), waste recycling, transportation, funeral homes, oil and food distribution. The mafias know what you have, and will need, and they give it, and will give it, on their own terms,” Palermo Chief Prosecutor Francesco Lo Voi told Arab News.
“We’d seen all this coming in the past few weeks. Now we have the facts. The mafia will make the most of this health emergency to infiltrate the legal economy and increase its business,” he added.
“No business can escape from their attack, especially in this particular moment. People have no money. Those who made their living by working off the books earned nothing in the lockdown as they weren’t eligible for government benefits. They all could become new ‘soldiers’ for the mob.”
Police believe that clans are using dirty money to buy restaurants and luxury hotels for next to nothing.
“That’s a perfect way to launder their money,” Lo Voi said. “Emissaries of the mob have been reported in the past few weeks to have ‘visited’ owners of restaurants and even luxury hotels, which have been closed for the lockdown and will struggle to go back to business. They offer them a low amount of cash compared to the actual value of the property. If the owner doesn’t immediately agree to sell, they warn him that they’ll return the following week and offer him half the initial sum. Many entrepreneurs agree to sell off their properties to the mobsters because they fear they won’t be able to survive the economic crisis after the lockdown.”


Explosion as fire breaks out at Iranian industrial complex

Updated 13 July 2020

Explosion as fire breaks out at Iranian industrial complex

  • Six storage tanks had caught fire, including the one that exploded, an Iranian official said

Iranian police are investigating after a fire broke out at an industrial complex in northeast Iran where gas condensate storage tanks are sited, one of which exploded, the Mehr news agency reported on Monday.
Javad Jahandoust, the fire chief at the Kavian Fariman industrial complex, some 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of the city of Mashhad, was quoted as saying six storage tanks had caught fire, including the one that exploded.
He said the fire was under control and there were no casualties, but police were investigating the cause.
There have been several explosions and fires around Iranian military, nuclear and industrial facilities since late June.
On Sunday, the official IRNA news agency reported a fire at a petrochemical facility in southwest Iran, which was blamed on an oil leak. There were no casualties.