Mafia suspects refuse to leave Switzerland

Switzerland cannot extradite two alleged mobsters to Italy because they don’t want to go.

Mafia suspects refuse to leave Switzerland
Photo: Roland Fischer/File

The duo, suspected of being members of a Swiss-based cell of the powerful Italian crime organization ‘Ndrangheta, have refused to be extradited.

Since they are naturalized Swiss, they cannot be extradited against their will, the Swiss federal justice office said in a statement on Thursday.

According to the ministry, the additional 15 alleged ‘Ndrangheta members arrested in Switzerland on March 8th – who are all Italian – are also refusing to be extradited to Italy, as requested by Rome.

Twelve of them were detained in the northern canton of Thurgau, one in the neighbouring canton of Zurich and two in the Valais.

Italian police believe the ‘Ndrangheta group – which they describe as the most active, richest and most powerful crime syndicate in Europe – uses legitimate activities in northern Italy to recycle the huge amounts of cash generated by their drugs business.

In the statement, the Swiss said they must now examine if Italy’s request meets the conditions demanded by the European convention on extradition.

Switzerland is obliged to extradite the two suspects arrested in the canton of Valais since they were already sentenced to nine and six years jail respectively by a court in Reggio Calabria, Southern Italy, in 2014 for offences committed in Italy.

Twelve of the group have been released on bail, since the justice ministry “judges that the flight risk is slim”.

In their case, there is no obligation for the Swiss to comply with Italy’s extradition request since their alleged offences were committed in Switzerland.

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New York returns 214 stolen artworks to Italy in seven months

Authorities in New York announced on Thursday the return to Italy of 14 more antiquities, worth an estimated €2.3 million, as part of an investigation into smuggling of stolen artifacts.

New York returns 214 stolen artworks to Italy in seven months

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office has been conducting an extensive investigation over the past two years into looted antiquities that have ended up in New York museums and galleries — including the prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Art.

During a ceremony on Thursday with the Italian consul general and Italian police representatives, 14 more artifacts – some 2,600 years old – were officially returned to Italy, bringing the total number of repatriated pieces to that country over the past seven months to 214, District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office said.

READ ALSO: Italian ‘art squad’ police recover 800 illegally-excavated archaeological finds

More than 700 pieces worth more than $100 million have been returned in the past year to 17 countries, including Italy as well as Cambodia, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq, and Greece, the statement added.

New York, a hub of stolen antiquities trafficking for decades, set up a task force in 2017 to investigate the illicit trade.

According to the statement by District Attorney Bragg, who took office in January 2022, Thursday’s repatriation included the silver “Sicily Naxos Coin,” minted around 430 BCE and currently valued at half a million dollars.

Other notable items included ancient pottery dating to 510 BCE, and amarble head of Roman Emperor Hadrian, dating to 200 CE.

Among the culprits behind the 14 returned pieces, the statement said, were well-known art traffickers Giacomo Medici and Giovanni Franco Becchina, as well as Robert Hecht, the Paris-based American art dealer who died in 2012.

The traffickers had “relied on gangs of tombaroli (tomb raiders) to loot carefully chosen and insufficiently guarded archaeological sites throughout the Mediterranean,” it added.