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CRIME

Italy and Austria smash mafia arms trafficking ring

Italy and Austria have broken up an international arms trafficking ring that supplied the Camorra organised crime group with 800 guns including "weapons of war."

Italy and Austria smash mafia arms trafficking ring
Guns seized by Italian antimafia police in a crackdown on the Camorra. File photo: Nunzio Mari/AFP

Authorities arrested 22 people, including a father and son team of Austrian gunsmiths, who illegally supplied the Naples-based syndicate with weapons that had their serial numbers removed, officials said on Tuesday.

“This clan armed itself to start a war with other clans,” Naples prosecutor Ivana Fulco told a news conference at the EU judicial agency Eurojust, in The Hague.

The year-long Italian investigation involved the arrests of several Camorra couriers, with the trail eventually leading to the two Austrian gunsmiths, she said.

The Austrians are known to have sold more than 800 new pistols to the Italian mafia group as well as 50 Kalashnikov assault rifles and 10 'Scorpion' submachine guns, worth a total of 500,000 euros.

Nearly 100 further weapons and a “huge” quantity of ammunition were found hidden in several premises in Austria, Eurojust said.

“Some of these are weapons of war,” said Filippo Spiezia, the national member for Italy at Eurojust.
One of the arrests was in France, where the Camorra network was also trying to buy weapons, prosecutor Fulco said.

The Camorra is one of Italy's three main organised crime groups, along with Sicily's Cosa Nostra, commonly known as the mafia, and the 'Ndrangheta, centred in the Calabria region.

In December Eurojust announced the arrest of around 90 suspected 'Ndrangheta mobsters in six countries in Europe and South America.

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CRIME

New York returns 214 stolen artworks to Italy in seven months

Authorities in New York announced on Thursday the return to Italy of 14 more antiquities, worth an estimated €2.3 million, as part of an investigation into smuggling of stolen artifacts.

New York returns 214 stolen artworks to Italy in seven months

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office has been conducting an extensive investigation over the past two years into looted antiquities that have ended up in New York museums and galleries — including the prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Art.

During a ceremony on Thursday with the Italian consul general and Italian police representatives, 14 more artifacts – some 2,600 years old – were officially returned to Italy, bringing the total number of repatriated pieces to that country over the past seven months to 214, District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office said.

READ ALSO: Italian ‘art squad’ police recover 800 illegally-excavated archaeological finds

More than 700 pieces worth more than $100 million have been returned in the past year to 17 countries, including Italy as well as Cambodia, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq, and Greece, the statement added.

New York, a hub of stolen antiquities trafficking for decades, set up a task force in 2017 to investigate the illicit trade.

According to the statement by District Attorney Bragg, who took office in January 2022, Thursday’s repatriation included the silver “Sicily Naxos Coin,” minted around 430 BCE and currently valued at half a million dollars.

Other notable items included ancient pottery dating to 510 BCE, and amarble head of Roman Emperor Hadrian, dating to 200 CE.

Among the culprits behind the 14 returned pieces, the statement said, were well-known art traffickers Giacomo Medici and Giovanni Franco Becchina, as well as Robert Hecht, the Paris-based American art dealer who died in 2012.

The traffickers had “relied on gangs of tombaroli (tomb raiders) to loot carefully chosen and insufficiently guarded archaeological sites throughout the Mediterranean,” it added.

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