Police arrest 18 ‘ultra’ football fans over drug-fuelled violence

Italian police announced on Tuesday the arrest of 18 'ultra' fans of Atalanta suspected of drug trafficking, extortion, robbery and acts of violence in and around the Serie A club's stadium.

Police arrest 18 'ultra' football fans over drug-fuelled violence
Atalanta supporters cheer on their team with a banner reading 'No Fear'. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

Atalanta are enjoying their best season to date in Italy's top flight, sitting in fifth place only four points off the league's third and last Champions League qualifying spot.

But the Bergamo club's reputation for boasting one of the most fervent match day supports in Italy has been dented amid charges of trafficking and drug-fuelled violence by dozens of supporters, including a 73-year-old and a 63-year-old.

An investigation was launched in September 2015, in which police used hidden cameras around the stadium and the city and intercepted “hundreds” of telephone calls between suspects before launching a raid codenamed 'Mai Una Gioia' (Never a Joy).

A joint raid by Italy's Polizia di Stato (National Police) and Bergamo police on Tuesday morning uncovered large quantities of drugs at several addresses, leading to the arrest of 18 fans from a total of 26 questioned, according to statements.

“During the course of the investigation, hundreds of hours of intercepted calls and hidden camera footage have helped document dozens of cash exchanges, the violent robbery of a drug courier and several extortion attempts on drug users unable to pay their debts,” said a statement by the Italian National Police.

It was accompanied by photos of the drugs uncovered during the raid, posted on the Polizia di Stato Twitter account with a statement which said: “Seized by Bergamo police during the #Maiunagioia operation, leading to 18 arrests, eight precautionary measures and 30 stadium bans.”

The police statement said fans used secret language to buy and sell drugs, mainly cocaine and marijuana, in and around the stadium, after which “acts of violence” often followed.

Police had to intervene in the centre of Bergamo last January following violent clashes between 'ultra' fans from Inter Milan and Atalanta.


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.”