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MAFIA

Pope criticises the mafia for ‘exploiting’ the pandemic

Pope Francis launched a fresh attack on the mafia on Sunday, Italy's day of remembrance for victims of the mob, describing them as "organisations of sin" who have exploited the coronavirus pandemic.

Pope criticises the mafia for 'exploiting' the pandemic
The Pope condemns those in the mafia as "blasphemous". (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)

“Mafias are present in various parts of the world and, exploiting the pandemic, have enriched themselves through corruption,” the pontiff said after his weekly Sunday Angelus address.

Referring to his predecessors as head of the Catholic church, he added: “St John Paul II denounced their culture of death and Benedict XVI condemned them as a road of death.

“These organisations of sin, mafia structures, exchange faith for idolatry, contrary to the Gospel of Christ. Today we remember all the victims and renew our commitment against mafias.”

READ ALSO: ‘Free to choose’: The scheme helping women and children leave Italy’s mafia clans

In an open-air mass in Sicily in September 2018, during a trip to honour a priest murdered by the mob 25 years earlier, Pope Francis condemned those who belong to the mafia as “blasphemous”.

His impassioned plea echoed the words of Jean Paul II who, during a May 1993 trip to the island, had also called on mobsters to abandon crime, and urged Sicilians to revolt against the mafia.

Italy’s anti-mafia organisation Libera has for many years been remembering the victims of organised crime on March 21, but in recent years it has become an official national day of commemoration.

In a statement on Sunday, Italian President Sergio Mattarella said: “Eradicating the mafia is possible and necessary.”

READ ALSO: ‘Ndrangheta: Major Italian mafia ‘maxi-trial’ kicks off with over 350 defendants

A mafia drug ring was dismantled earlier this month in the southern Calabria region, after a grandma tipped off Italian police.

“People have suffered and seen the arrogance of these criminals who insisted on extorting money,” anti-mafia prosecutor Nicola Gratteri told the Gazzetta del Sud daily.

READ ALSO: Meet Nicola Gratteri, the prosecutor leading Italy’s battle against the mafia

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CRIME

Italian killer with mafia links arrested in France after 16 years on the run

A convicted murderer linked to one of Italy's most powerful mafia organisations was arrested on Thursday in central France, Interpol said.

Italian killer with mafia links arrested in France after 16 years on the run

Edgardo Greco, 63, is suspected of belonging to the notorious ‘Ndrangheta, a powerful mafia organisation in Calabria, southern Italy.

He is wanted in Italy to serve a life sentence for the murders of Stefano and Giuseppe Bartolomeo, and accused of the attempted murder of Emiliano Mosciaro “as part of a mafia war between the Pino Sena and Perna Pranno gangs that marked the early 1990s”, Interpol said.

The Bartolomeo brothers were beaten to death with iron bars in a fish warehouse, Italian police said.

Greco’s arrest in central France came with help for Italy and France from the “Cooperation against ‘Ndrangheta Project” (I-CAN) run by Interpol, which facilitates police cooperation between its 195 member states.

READ ALSO: Italian police seize €250 million and arrest 56 in latest mafia blitz

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi, quoted in Interpol’s statement, said the arrests demonstrated his country’s commitment to “fighting all forms of organised crime and locating dangerous fugitives”.

The ‘Ndrangheta is considered Italy’s most extensive and powerful mafia group, Interpol said, operating worldwide and with strong ties to the trade in cocaine bound for Europe from South America

I-CAN’s job is help raise awareness of ‘Ndrangheta and their modus operandi, sharing police information to dismantle their networks and operations, the agency said.

The arrest of Greco, who worked in the evenings in a pizza restaurant under an assumed named according to Italian media, came a week after Italian police said it had dismantled a ‘Ndrangheta mafia ring dominating a large area of southern Calabria and seized assets exceeding 250 million euros.

Fifty-six people, many already in prison, were put under criminal investigation for a series of crimes including mafia-related conspiracy, extortion, kidnapping, bribery and possession of weapons, police and prosecutors said.

The arrest of Greco comes just over two weeks after Italian police arrested one of the most notorious bosses of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra mafia, Matteo Messina Denaro, who had been on the run for 30 years.

The 60-year-old was arrested after visiting a health clinic where he was being treated in the Sicilian capital Palermo

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