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CRIME

How Italy plans to stop mafia preying on Covid-hit businesses

Italy has stepped up measures to stop mafia infiltration into companies now struggling financially due to coronavirus, and to stop crime groups siphoning funds meant for crisis relief.

How Italy plans to stop mafia preying on Covid-hit businesses
A charity food bank in Italy, where poverty has worsened following the coronavirus shutdown - and mafia stand to profit. Photo: AFP

Officials have issued an average of 150 “anti-mafia bans” each month so far this year; measures that prevent a company from entering into contracts with

public administration, Italy's La Repubblica newspaper reported.
 
The figure was a 25 percent rise on last year, according to the paper.
 
The efforts are part of a broader attempt to keep European Union recovery funds out of the hands of criminal groups, a risk Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese warned of earlier this year as the pandemic began to bite.
 
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Police are investigating about 3,000 cases of alleged fraud involving funds intended to help those hit by the pandemic and subsequent shutdown, Il Sole 24 Ore said.
 
The southern regions of Campania, Sicily and Calabria, where the three most powerful mafias originate, have been the primary focus of the bans.
 
But Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna in northern and central Italy have also accounted for a substantial number, underscoring the national – as well as international – reach of organised crime groups.
 
 
The groups have been offering loans or buying out companies that hit dire financial difficulties after Italy imposed a more than two-month lockdown in
March.
 
“The mafia's movements, in this period, focus more than ever on financing, acquisitions and infiltration into companies,” national anti-mafia prosecutor
Cafiero De Raho told Il Sole 24 Ore.
 
 
“We are checking, for example, for what we define as 'inconsistent' investments, looking at volumes (of funds transferred), subjects and destinations.”
 
The most affected sectors are restaurants, hotels, food production, supermarkets and construction, in addition to private companies in the health sector.
 
Each group has their own preferences.
 
While the Camorra mafia from Campania has been sourcing masks and Sicily's Cosa Nostra sanitation equipment, Calabria's 'Ndrangheta has targeted public
construction including health care projects, La Repubblica reported.
 
 
A total of 1,400 bans have been issued in 2020 with the rate rising in the last four months, when government aid began to reach companies, the paper
wrote. 
 
Police have also reportedly seen a sharp increase in cases of mafia lending to the unemployed and poorest sections of the population.

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CRIME

 Italian police arrest mafia member after three women killed in Rome

Italian police on Saturday arrested a mafia member suspected of killing two alleged Chinese prostitutes and a Colombian sex worker in Rome, local media reported.

 Italian police arrest mafia member after three women killed in Rome

The bodies of the two Chinese women were discovered in a residential building in the upmarket Prati district on Thursday morning, while the body of the South American was found in an apartment in the same neighbourhood an hour later.

All three victims were stabbed, according to Italian media reports.

According to the Corriere della Sera newspaper, footage from surveillance cameras allowed police to identify 51-year-old Giandavide De Pau, who had been prosecuted in the past for drug trafficking and sexual assault.

The suspect is reportedly a member of a mafia clan headed by Michele Senese, who is currently serving a life sentence. De Pau is believed to have been one of Senese’s closest collaborators, acting as his personal driver and handyman.

In 2008 and 2011, the suspect had also spent time in a psychiatric hospital.

It is unknown whether the suspected killer was carrying out a mafia hit or acting alone, possibly under the influence of drugs, which were found at the home of some family members where he is believed to have sought refuge after the police manhunt got underway, Corriere della Sera reported.

Several newspapers had warned of a possible “serial killer” in the Italian capital.

The body of one of the Chinese victims was spotted by a neighbour where it lay, naked on a landing. The woman, believed to be in her 40s, had suffered head and stomach injuries, the newspaper said.

When police entered her apartment, they found the body of the second Chinese woman.

Nobody in the building appeared to have heard the murders take place, according to residents.

“Everybody knew there was a house of ill repute here, I’d see people arriving at 2:00 am, 3:00 am,” a woman who lived in the building told reporters.

The body of the Colombian, who was 65, was found by a friend, Corriere della Sera said.

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