Mafia threats against local politicians rising

Italy's local councils are increasingly being intimidated by the mafia and other criminals, a new Senate investigation has found.

Mafia threats against local politicians rising
The Senate commission found 132 people working for or linked to local government were murdered over the past 40 years. Bullet photo: Shutterstock

There were 1,265 acts of intimidation in the 15 months to April 2014, recorded in a Senate report presented on Thursday.

Discussing the findings on Thursday, Senator Doris Lo Moro said such incidents were on the increase across Italy.

“Since the start of the year [2013] hundreds and hundreds of acts of intimidation have been recorded,” she told journalists in Rome, with cases ranging in severity from insults to murders.

Lo Moro presided over the Italian government’s first parliamentary commission dedicated to investigating the phenomenon, finding that eight percent of local councils faced intimidation.

Government workers worst affected were in Sicily, where 211 acts of intimidation were recorded, followed by Puglia (163), Calabria (155) and Sardinia (136).

While southern Italy and the islands accounted for 62.6 percent of intimidation cases, the central and northern regions were by no means safe havens.

Ninety-three cases were recorded in Milan’s Lombardy region, 78 in Lazio, home to the Italian capital, and 56 in Tuscany.

Mayors were frequently the victims, accounting for 35 percent of cases, while other local government workers and occasionally their families faced intimidation.

Taking a broader look at the phenomenon, the Senate commission found 132 people working for or linked to local government have been murdered over the past 40 years.

The majority of killings – 73 percent – took place in Calabria, Campania and Sicily; the regions which are home to Italy’s three main mafias.

Although the government has offered security to some staff, with 341 protection measures active in local councils in July 2014, Lo Moro said more needs to be done.

While describing Italy’s anti-mafia legislation as “very advanced”, the senator said the capacity to apply such laws was challenging and many acts of intimidation were wrongly treated as petty crimes.

“Burning a mayor’s car is a classic, it’s the most recurring damage; it’s considered damage to personal property, so there’s no response,” Lo Moro said.

Such individual cases should instead be treated as crimes against the broader community and the state which the mayor represent, she said.

The Senate commission has now requested lawmakers change the criminal code, in order to make it easier to tackle the widespread phenomenon of intimidation.  

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New York returns millions worth of stolen art to Italy

Prosecutors in New York on Tuesday returned dozens of antiquities stolen from Italy and valued at around $19 million, some of which were found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

New York returns millions worth of stolen art to Italy

“These 58 pieces represent thousands of years of rich history, yet traffickers throughout Italy utilized looters to steal these items and to line their own pockets,” said Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, noting that it was the third such repatriation in nine months.

“For far too long, they have sat in museums, homes, and galleries that had no rightful claim to their ownership,” he said at a ceremony attended by Italian diplomats and law enforcement officials.

The stolen items had been sold to Michael Steinhardt, one of the world’s leading collectors of ancient art, the DA’s office said, adding that he had been slapped with a “first-of-its-kind lifetime ban on acquiring antiquities.”


Among the recovered treasures, which in some cases were sold to “unwitting collectors and museums,” were a marble head of the Greek goddess Athena from 200 B.C.E. and a drinking cup dating back to 470 B.C.E, officials said.

The pieces were stolen at the behest of four men who “all led highly lucrative criminal enterprises – often in competition with one another – where they would use local looters to raid archaeological sites throughout Italy, many of which were insufficiently guarded,” the DA’s office said.

One of them, Pasquale Camera, was “a regional crime boss who organized thefts from museums and churches as early as the 1960s. He then began purchasing stolen artifacts from local looters and sold them to antiquities dealers,” it added.

It said that this year alone, the DA’s office has “returned nearly 300 antiquities valued at over $66 million to 12 countries.”