Italian police: Mafia skimmed millions

2017-05-16 07:08


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Rome - Italian police on Monday arrested 68 people, including a priest and the head of a Catholic volunteer group called "Mercy," accusing them of being in cahoots with a major mafia clan that skimmed millions in public funds destined for one of Italy's biggest migrant welcome centres.

Announcing the arrests, an incredulous Carabinieri General Giuseppe Governale summarised the scam by saying: "The welcome centre and 'Mercy' were the ATMs of the mafia".

Investigators said the Arena clan of the Calabrian 'ndrangheta mob had secured a stranglehold on servicing the Isola di Capo Rizzuto migrant centre in Crotone for the past decade, thanks in part to its links to "Mercy" and its head, Leonardo Sacco.

Sacco is a well-connected Italian and his arrest took on political implications given the number of politicians - and even Pope Francis - who have been photographed with him.

Real estate

Investigators said "Mercy" subcontracted catering services to companies run by the Arena clan, which allegedly skimmed $39.5m of the $103m in public funds destined for migrant care between 2006 and 2015.

Part of the scam involved claiming for more meals than were actually provided and then using the money to buy real estate, fancy cars and luxury boats, said Catanzaro prosecutor Nicola Gratteri.

Police said the Reverend Edoardo Scordio, a parish priest affiliated with "Mercy", was the "organiser of a true system of exploitation of public funds destined for the migrant emergency".

Read more on:    mafia  |  italy  |  corruption

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