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Munich to return €2.5M book trove to Naples

Munich prosecutors are set to return 543 stolen books - including first editions by Galileo and Copernicus - to Italy on Friday, after recovering the trove from a Munich auction house in a real-life crime thriller.

Munich to return €2.5M book trove to Naples
Girolamini library in Naples, Italy. Photo: DPA

The books were confiscated from a German auction house in 2012, leading to the arrest of the auction house director, Herbert Schauer.

Set to collect their missing books is the Girolamini Library in Naples. The books were slowly removed from the collection by the library's former director Marino Massimo De Caro, who was sentenced to seven years in prison for the thefts.

A spokesman for the Bavarian State Prosecutor's office told The Local that the books have been in their possession while ownership could be established.

"There are several books here and we had to go through each one individually to establish ownership, though our findings did prove that the Girolamini Library was indeed the rightful owner of all 543 books," he said.

The books include dozens of titles by Italian physicist Galileo Galilei and Renaissance astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus as well as German astronomer Johannes Kepler. Most of the titles are books from the 16th and 17th centuries.

The books came to Germany through a sale to Zisska & Schauer, which now is known as Zisska and Lacher.

"We had been looking at the books for months," auction house owner Wolfgang Lacher told DPA. "They were brought to us under false pretences and registered as part of the estate of a couple from northern Italy."

The Munich prosecutors noted that the auction house was fully cooperative once the books actual pedigree was known.

Schauer was sentenced to five years in prison in Italy for the theft, though his sentence is still pending appeal.

De Caro stole the books over a four-month time period in 2012. In April, the library announced around 1,500 books were missing.

It is now up to the Italian authorities to decide how the books will be transported.

The Girolamini library belongs to the church and convent of the same name in Naples. The collection started in the 16th century and has become one of the most important literary collections in the world.

By Sabine Devins

With reporting by The Local Italy's Rosie Scammell. 

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MAFIA

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

In its latest mafia sting, Italian police took down a large 'Ndrangheta ring in southern Calabria, placing 56 people under investigation including a regional councillor and a former head of the regional tourism board.

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

The early-morning blitz by over 300 police focused on areas of Calabria – Italy’s poorest region – under the control of the Mancuso clan, a powerful branch of the infamous ‘Ndrangheta, many of whose top operatives are among hundreds of defendants in an ongoing ‘maxi-trial’.

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.

READ ALSO: ‘Ndrangheta: It’s time to bust some myths about the Calabrian mafia

Besides alleged mafia members, the operation also snared businessmen, a regional councillor released from prison days earlier, a former head of the regional tourism board and two civil servants, police said.

The incarcerated boss of the clan, Luigi Mancuso, also known as “The Supreme”, is the biggest mafioso in the massive mafia trial that started in January 2021.

Still, police said, his clan and affiliates, including the La Rosa and Accortini families, have continued to dominate illegal activities in the Vibo Valentia province, which is located right on the toe of Italy’s boot and is widely known as the ‘Coast of the Gods’ due to its stunning coastal views.

One mafia scheme involved the infiltration of a foreign tour operator in Pizzo Calabro, overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea.

No one talks

In Calabria, the extent of the ‘Ndrangheta’s reach in the local economy has made it near impossible to eradicate it.

By controlling the bulk of cocaine flowing into Europe, the ‘Ndrangheta has surpassed Sicily’s Cosa Nostra in power and wealth. It has extended far beyond its rural roots and now operates internationally, with illegal gains reinvested in the legitimate economy.

In the area around Vibo Valentia, extortion of local businesses and the fixing of public tenders is also common.

The allegations against those arrested Thursday include the transport and sale of stolen farm machinery to Malta and Romania, police said.

The sting carried out on Thursday extended to other parts of Calabria, Palermo in Sicily and as far as Rome and Milan, police said.

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

In a press conference, anti-mafia prosecutor Nicola Gratteri, whose efforts to defeat the ‘Ndrangheta have forced him to live under police escort for over 30 years, called the group a “fierce mafia syndicate” controlling areas around the tourist resort of Tropea.

Francesco Messina, who leads Italy’s organised crime investigative unit (DAC), cited the economic power of the clan, which relies locally on “substantial” extortion activity.

The “total absence” of complaints to authorities was striking, Messina said, underscoring the ‘Ndrangheta’s power to intimidate.

By Alexandria Sage

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