Police raids ahead of Milan Expo opening

Italian police are bracing for potential trouble at the opening of Expo 2015 after carrying out pre-emptive raids on Wednesday on radical groups suspected of planning to disrupt the showcase event's launch.

Police raids ahead of Milan Expo opening
Expo organizers are predicting 20 million visitors over the next six months. Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP

The first world fair since Shanghai in 2010 is to be inaugurated on Friday with organizers predicting 20 million visitors over the next six months and a €10 billion boost to the Italian economy.

It has also triggered a "No Expo" movement which is planning a major student rally on Thursday and a May Day march on Friday that is predicted to draw 30,000 people. Further events are scheduled over the weekend.

Organizers of the protests insist they intend them to be peaceful but the Italian media has been awash with reports of anti-capitalist collective Blockupy and other groups with a record of violent action planning to take part.

Milan police carried out raids on premises associated with several radical groups on Tuesday and Wednesday, seizing fireworks, baseball bats, gas masks and material which could be used to make Molotov cocktails.

A German national was arrested for possession of explosive material and 26 other people, including 16 French nationals, are being investigated, AGI news agency reported.

Opponents of the Expo say it is being staged on the backs of thousands of young people working for free or for minimal wages on a work experience basis.

They are angry that public money has been diverted to the project at a time of economic hardship, that millions have been syphoned off through corruption, and that corporations such as McDonalds and Nestle are involved in an event with the challenge of feeding the planet as its central theme.

Milan mayor Giuliano Pisapia has asked for security reinforcements to help police the demonstrations amid predictions that trouble is virtually inevitable.

"Milan is waking up in a climate of tension and bad omens it has not witnessed in 30 years," La Repubblica commented in a reference to the late 1970s and early 1980s when Italy was haunted by the spectre of homegrown terrorism.

SEE ALSO: Italy looks to Milan Expo for taste of recovery

Photo by Giuseppe Cacace/AFP

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Romanian billionaire and seven others die in Milan plane crash

A light aircraft piloted by Romanian billionaire Dan Petrescu crashed into an empty office building near Milan on Sunday, killing him, his wife and son, and all five others aboard.

Police and rescue teams outside the office building where a small plane crashed in the Milan suburb of San Donato.
Police and rescue teams outside the office building where a small plane crashed in the Milan suburb of San Donato on October 3rd. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

The single-engine Pilatus PC-12 had taken off from Milan’s Linate airport shortly after 1pm headed for Olbia in the north of the Italian island of Sardinia.

It crashed just a few minutes later into a building in San Donato Milanese, a town southeast of Milan, according to aviation agency ANSV, which has opened an investigation.

Witnesses said the plane was already in flames before it crashed into an office building undergoing renovations.

Petrescu’s 65-year-old wife, who also had French nationality, and their son Dan Stefano, 30, were killed.

Italian media identified the other passengers as entrepreneur Filippo Nascimbene, a 33-year-old from Lombardy, with his wife, young son and mother-in-law, who have French nationality.

Petrescu, 68, was one of Romania’s richest men. He headed a major construction firm and owned a string of hypermarkets and malls. He also held Germany nationality, the Corriere della Sera newspaper reported.

Flames engulfed the two-storey building, next to the yellow line subway terminus.

“The impact was devastating,” Carlo Cardinali, of the Milan fire brigade, told news agency Ansa.

Deputy prosecutor Tiziana Siciliano was quoted by Corriere as saying that the plane’s black box had been recovered.