Renzi under pressure over brutal Sicily murder

Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi came under increasing pressure on Tuesday to respond after an asylum seeker was arrested on suspicion of the brutal murder of an elderly couple in Sicily.

Renzi under pressure over brutal Sicily murder
Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

The 18-year-old from the Ivory Coast was arrested on Sunday after the bodies of Victor Solano, 68, and his 70-year-old Spanish wife, Mercedes Ibanez, were found at their home near a refugee centre in Mineo, a town outside Catania.

The arrest flared the debate over migrants in Italy, with Matteo Salvini, the leader of the anti-immigration Northern League party, writing on Twitter and Facebook on Monday: “From what war was this guy escaping??? If he’s guilty, jail for life, with HARD LABOUR!”

Salvini later said on Twitter he would visit Mineo on Friday, to “speak to Sicilians”, who he described as “the most welcoming people in the world”.

“But there's a limit,” he added.  

The suspect was implicated in the double murder after a phone and laptop, allegedly belonging to the victims, were found in a bag he was carrying as he entered the refugee centre. He claimed he found the bag in the street.

Blood-stained trousers, thought to belong to the suspect, were also found in the garden of the couple’s home.

The suspect was also allegedly wearing a T-Shirt belonging to Solano, which was recognized by the deceased man’s daughter, at the time of his arrest.

Solano was found with his throat slit while his wife’s body was found in the courtyard beneath their apartment. It is believed that she fell from the balcony.

Renzi has so far stayed silent after the couple’s daughter, Rosita Solano, blamed the government for the murders, saying it allowed “immigrants to come here and do what they want, even rob and kill us.”

On Tuesday she told Corriere that neither the premier nor Angelino Alfano, Italy’s Interior Minister, had even Tweeted a message of support.

“My parents didn’t even merit a tweet,” she said.

“I want justice – not political controversy: Renzi come and speak to me, show your face…before the funeral. When he was nominated premier, I thought Italy would finally be worth something in Europe, instead…”

Giorgio Meloni, a politician from the right-wing Fratelli d’Italia, and Vincenzo Gibiino from Forze Italia called for the Mineo centre – the largest of such facilities in Europe – to be closed.

Some 110,000 migrants have landed in Italy since the start of the year, the majority arriving in Sicily and the nearby island of Lampedusa.


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.”