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CRIME

Five convicted in Rome corruption trial

Five people, including ex-Rome councillor Daniele Ozzimo, were on Thursday convicted of corruption for their role in the so-called Mafia Capitale scandal that involved millions of euros being fleeced from Rome’s coffers.

Five convicted in Rome corruption trial
The case involved corruption that infiltrated Rome City Hall. Photo: Fillippo Monteforte/AFP

Ozzimo, a member of the Democratic Party, was handed a prison term of two years and two months at the end of his fast-track trial, Ansa reported.

The four others – Francesco Ferrara, Domenico Cammisa, Salvatore Menolascina and Carmelo Parabita – were former managers at the Rome-based catering cooperative, La Cascina.

They were given sentences ranging from two years and eight months to two years and six months.

Their case involved bid-rigging related to the Cara Mineo refugee centre near Catania in Sicily. The centre is the largest of its kind in Italy.

The four were accused of collaborating with Luca Odevaine, one of the scandal’s main orchestrators and the former member of the national panel of coordination for receiving refugees and asylum-seekers.

Some 40 or so other politicians, businessmen and officials are also on trial, with all implicated in rigging tenders and other corrupt schemes designed to siphon off cash destined for everything from waste recycling to the reception of newly-arrived refugees.

Gianni Alemanno, a former mayor of Rome, was also charged in December with corruption and illicit financing for his alleged role in the scandal.

Alemanno is alleged to have pocketed the €125,000 via his Nuova Italia foundation in return for “acts running counter to his duties in office”. He faces his first hearing on March 23rd.

The racketeering, which came to light in December 2014, contributed to the crumbling state of the capital's infrastructure, strained its public services and led to the downfall of mayor Ignazio Marino, who was forced out of office .

Much of the trial, which got underway in November, is expected to be taken up with arguments over whether the accused individuals can be said to have constituted a mafia-type organization as defined by legislation designed to combat more traditional crime syndicates, such as Sicily's Cosa Nostra, the Neapolitan Camorra and Calabria's 'Ndrangheta.

If the prosecution can prove that they did, the defendants will face much tougher sentences than they would if found guilty simply of corruption.

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ITALIAN HISTORY

Rome archaeologists continue search for start of Appian Way

An excavation team in Rome is trying to unearth the first, oldest section of the Appian Way, the Roman Empire's most strategic highway, which may soon become a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Rome archaeologists continue search for start of Appian Way

A paved road of more than 500 kilometres (310 miles) begun in 312 BC by Roman statesman Appius Claudius Caecus, the ‘Via Appia‘ is an archaeological treasure trove, where an ongoing excavation hopes to uncover the actual starting point of the road in Rome.

The artery leading south to the key port of Brindisi at Italy’s heel provided a gateway to the eastern Mediterranean, especially Greece, and was of strategic importance for the armies and merchants of a quickly expanding Rome.

READ ALSO: Treasure trove of ancient Roman statues unearthed in Tuscany

This week, archaeologists showed off progress in their attempt to dig deep enough to unearth the beginning of the road, hidden far beneath Rome’s Baths of Caracalla, built some five centuries after the Appian Way.

“What we see today is the result of an excavation that began in July with the central goal of finding clues to the location of the first section of the Appian Way,” said archaeologist Riccardo Santangeli Valenzani.

The first, earliest section of the road is the one that provides “the most problems regarding the precise and exact location”, the professor at Roma Tre University cautioned.

The Appian Way is a paved road stretching more than 500 kilometres, begun in 312 B.C. by Roman statesman Appius Claudius Caecus. (Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / AFP)

Construction of the Appian Way required Herculean engineering, from the levelling of the land, building of ditches and canals and surfacing of the road with gravel and heavy stone, to the building of post offices and inns to support the thousands of soldiers and merchants headed southward.

Digging deeper

Wandering today along the Appian Way, where massive blocks of paving stone are still visible in sections, is to take a trip through the past.

Imposing monuments such as the first century BC tomb of a consul’s daughter, Cecilia Metella, sit alongside ancient catacombs and churches, crumbling tombstones of Roman families and leafy villas.

The Appian Way sheds light not only on the Roman Republic and later Roman Empire, but also on life and death in the Middle Ages with its pilgrimage shrines and crypts.

The road also provides a glimpse of modern architectural wonders, such as the sumptuous villas owned by Italy’s rich and famous, including film legend Gina Lollobrigida or former premier Silvio Berlusconi.

Appian Way in Rome

A man walks along Rome’s Appian Way, which might soon become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

Italy, which earlier this month presented its bid for the Appian Way to UNESCO, already has 58 sites recognised as World Heritage Sites, the most of any country.

They include entire historical city centres, such as Rome, Florence and Venice, and archaeological areas such as the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Work to locate the starting point of the Appian Way, believed to be some eight metres below ground, has so far been complicated by groundwater.

Nevertheless, digging in higher strata of ground has unearthed relics from different periods, including a marble bust from the second century AD and an early papal square coin, minted between 690 and 730.

Wandering today along the Appian Way is to take a trip through the past. (Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / AFP)

Archaeologists have also found fragments of glass and ceramics, mosaic and bits of amphora.

So far, the excavation has reached residential or commercial structures dating back to the time of Emperor Hadrian, who died in 138 AD.

Archaeologist Daniele Manacorda said the current excavation had reached the point of “late ancient Rome, the one that began to live in the ruins of ancient Rome”.

“If we could continue to dig deeper, we would find archaic Rome,” he said.

By AFP’s Kelly Velasquez and Alexandria Sage

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