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Italian police seize weapons in raid on neo-Nazi group

Police have seized guns, crossbows and other weapons from an Italian neo-Nazi group with ties to the Calabrian mafia.

Italian police seize weapons in raid on neo-Nazi group
Some of the weapons and far-right reading material seized in the police raids. All photos: Italian Police/AFP

Police said the group had also been forging contacts with extremists elsewhere in Europe.

Officers searching the homes of 19 suspects throughout the country, from Milan to Sicily, seized automatic weapons, rifles, crossbows, swords, knives, Nazi flags and books on dictators Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini, police said.

Those targeted belonged to the fledgling neo-Nazi Partito Nazionalsocialista Italiano dei Lavoratori, or National Italian Socialist Workers' Party, which has an openly anti-Semitic and xenophobic programme and was in contact with Britain's Neo-Nazi Combat 18 and Portugal's far-right New Social Order.

The police operation originated from local monitoring of extreme right-wing local militants in Enna, Sicily, by anti-mafia and anti-terror police, local media reports.

Their operation revealed a large network of extremists operating in various parts of Italy, united by the same ideology.

The group reportedly aimed to recruit members through social media, and used a closed chat called “Militia” dedicated to training the militants.

One of the most powerful members of the group was a 50-year-old woman in Padua, calling herself the “sergeant major of Hitler”, who police believe was in charge of recruitment for the group.

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Investigators searching her home found propaganda material and banners featuring swastikas and other fascist symbols.

The head trainer of the “militia” was a member of the powerful Calabrian mafia 'Ndrangheta, who had collaborated with police on previous investigations and was a local leader in Liguria of the small, far-right Forza Nuova party, police said.

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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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