‘Italian police want to smear us’: Norway firm

The Norwegian company accused of running a "child kidnapping and human trafficking gang" in Italy has accused police in Palermo, Sicily, of deliberately seeking to smear it with false allegations.

'Italian police want to smear us': Norway firm
Photo: Wikipedia

The Norwegian company accused of running a "child kidnapping and human trafficking gang" in Italy has accused police in Palermo, Sicily, of deliberately seeking to smear it with false allegations.

"These allegations were made by the Palermo police with the sole purpose of harming ABP World Group," ABP World Group said in a press release on Monday night.

The company, which describes itself as a "child recovery" specialist, said that it always followed local and international laws, never used firearms, and only worked for parents who had been awarded sole custody of their children.

Martin Waage, CEO and founder of ABP World Group, said: “We are a serious company working with legal child recoveries. We never use weapons – that would mean that the situation was already too dangerous for the child involved."

The company said that two of its employees have now spent a year in jail in Tunisia without trial.

"They have been falsely accused by Tunisian police of a 'potential kidnapping', when in fact they were hired as a security detail to a woman who was due in court for a custody trial," it said.

"As of today, the mother has been given sole custody of the child by Tunisian court as well, but is still held against her will in Tunisia and hasn’t got her child returned which is a gross violation of the mother´s rights."

Sicilian police announced last week that they had arrested four people connected with the company, including Larysa Moskalenko, a Ukrainian former Olympic sailing champion, who is accused of hiring our speedboats to the alleged kidnappers.

Sicilian police said that the company employed “contractors, for the most part veterans of special corps from the armed forces, ready to offer their operational skills to whoever was willing to pay them handsomely enough."

It accused them of using weapons, such as taser guns and pepper spray during their operations. 

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Sicily braces for rare Mediterranean cyclone as storms continue

Sicily's residents are bracing for the arrival of a cyclone later on Thursday, the second this week after a deadly storm hammered the Italian island, killing three people.

Sicily braces for rare Mediterranean cyclone as storms continue
Cars and market stalls submerged in Catania, Sicily, after heavy rain hit the city and province on october 26th. Photo: STRINGER/ANSA/AFP

A rare tropical-style cyclone known as a “medicane” is set to reach Sicily’s eastern coast and the tip of mainland Calabria between Thursday evening and Friday morning, according to Italian public research institute ISPRA.

“Heavy rainfall and strong sea storms are expected on the coast, with waves of significant height over 4.5 metres (15 feet),” ISPRA said.

The Italian Department for Civil Protection placed eastern Sicily under a new amber alert for Thursday and the highest-level red lert for Friday in anticipation of the storm’s arrival, after almost a week of extreme weather in the area.

A total of three people have been reported killed in flooding on the island this week amid storms that left city streets and squares submerged.

On Tuesday, parts of eastern Sicily were ravaged by a cyclone following days of heavy rains that had sparked flooding and mudslides, killing three people.

Television images from Tuesday showed flooding in the emergency room of Catania’s Garibaldi-Nesima hospital, while rain was seen pouring from the roof inside offices at the city courtroom.

Thursday’s storm was set to hit the same area around Catania, Sicily’s second-largest city, even as residents were still mucking out their streets and homes.

Schools were closed in Syracuse and Catania, where the local government ordered public offices and courts closed through Friday.

The mayor of Catania on Tuesday shut down all businesses and urged residents to stay home.

Antonio Navarra, president of the Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change, told Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper this week that Sicily was at the centre of extreme weather events, including heatwaves and cyclones.

“We’re trying to understand if, with climate change, these phenomena will become even more intense, if they will change their character as their frequency intensifies,” he said.

READ ALSO: Climate crisis: The Italian cities worst affected by flooding and heatwaves

Cars submerged in Catania, Sicily, after storms hit the city and province on October 26th. Photo: STRINGER/ANSA/AFP

Other forecasters have said the “medicane” is the latest evidence that the climate crisis is irreversibly tropicalising the Mediterranean, after the island’s south-eastern city of Syracuse this August recorded a temperature of 48.8C, the hottest ever seen in Europe.

“Sicily is tropicalising and the upcoming medicane is perhaps the first of this entity, but it certainly won’t be the last,” Christian Mulder, a professor of ecology and climate emergency at the University of Catania, told The Guardian on Wednesday.

“We are used to thinking that this type of hurricane and cyclone begins in the oceans and not in a closed basin like the Mediterranean. But this is not the case,” he said.

“This medicane is forming due to the torrid climate of north Africa and the warm waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The Aegean Sea has a temperature of 3C higher than the average, while the Ionian Sea has a temperature of almost 2C higher than the average. The result is a pressure cooker.”

The storm is expected to leave the area between Saturday and Sunday.