‘Concrete risk’ of mafia meddling in Italy election, ministers warn

There is a risk of mafia interference in Italy's upcoming general election, some of the country's top politicians warned on Wednesday.

'Concrete risk' of mafia meddling in Italy election, ministers warn
Italy's Interior Minister Marco Minniti. Photo: Mahmud Turkia/AFP

Interior Minister Marco Minniti said it was a “fact” that there was “a concrete risk of the mafia conditioning the free vote”.

“To say that the mafias are a threat to democracy does not seem irrational on the eve of an electoral competition,” Minniti said in a speech at the Italian Senate.

He went on to say there had been “too much silence on these issues” in the election campaign so far, and that Italy faced a “double threat” of terrorism and mafia-linked crime.

There are several organized crime groups in Italy, the most well-known being the 'Ndrangheta in Calabria, the Cosa Nostra in Sicily, and the Camorra in Campania. Each of these has been linked to vote-buying and intimidation cases in the past, particularly at a local and regional level.

Minniti was speaking at the presentation of a report by the parliamentary anti-mafia commission.

The report said that Italy's mafia groups and particularly the Cosa Nostra have shown “an extraordinary capacity for regeneration.

The death last year of Toto Riina, the Cosa Nostra's so-called 'boss of bosses', had “paradoxically” strengthened Italy's mafia, according to the commission's president, Rosy Bindi, who said the group was actively restructuring.

This gave the group a possibility for renewed strength, Bindi said, after being hampered by Riina, a leader who could not be replaced because of the clan's hierarchical structure but, due to his imprisonment, could not properly direct the group.

Riina's death prompted some experts to suggest that the Cosa Nostra's decline would follow, while others suggested that the chance to choose a successor could revitalize it. Justice Minister Andrea Orlando warned at the time that Italy “must not lower its guard”.

Wednesday's report also warned of mafia involvement in managing migrant arrivals, and noted that northern Italy was not “immune” from mafia infiltration.

One anti-mafia expert with 20 years of experience, Antonio Cartosio, said in autumn 2017 that while mafia mass-killings have become far rarer in recent years, the criminal groups continue to play an important role in Italian society.

Speaking ahead of regional elections in Sicily, Cartosio commented: “The political sector has lent itself greatly to [organized crime's] infiltration of the social fabric.”

Local councils are dissolved on a semi-regular basis in Italy due to mafia infiltration, sometimes leaving the affected towns without an elected council for years at a time.



Tourist fined €450 for swim in Rome’s Trevi Fountain

With the return of tourism and scorching temperatures, Rome’s fountains are once again attracting visitors hoping to cool off with a midnight swim.

Tourist fined €450 for swim in Rome's Trevi Fountain

In the latest incident, a 26-year-old Spanish man was fined 450 euros after taking a dip in the Trevi Fountain in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Rome’s city police apprehended and fined the man after he was spotted swimming in the 18th-century monument at around 5am, according to local media reports.

READ ALSO: How to keep cool like an Ancient Roman in Italy’s summer heat

Every summer, hapless foreign visitors face fines of hundreds of euros after falling foul of Rome’s strict ban on taking a dip in public fountains – with the city mayor warning tourists that the centuries-old Baroque monuments are “not swimming pools”.

In April, two Dutch tourists also faced fines totalling over €1,000 after their own ill-advised splash in the Trevi Fountain.

The Roman landmark is one of the city’s main magnets for badly-behaved visitors, but tourists have also been fined after cooling off in the Santa Maria fountain in Trastevere, believed to be the city’s oldest. 

Since 2018, anyone caught misbehaving at Rome’s monuments can also face a temporary ‘Daspo’ ban from the area – similar to an ASBO (anti-social behaviour order) in the UK – which allows city police to restrict the movement of people they deem a threat to public order.

READ ALSO: From selfie brawls to midnight swims: Tourists behaving badly at the Trevi Fountain

But a plan to erect a one-metre-high glass and steel barrier around the Trevi fountain to protect it from unruly visitors now appears to have been abandoned after arts and heritage experts called the idea “foolish”.

Fines for swimming in the fountains have been in place since 2015, but this hasn’t stopped determined visitors from recreating scenes from La Dolce Vita and even some locals from taking a dip – – with or without their clothes.

Swimming in the wrong place is just one of the offences regularly committed by visitors, with graffiti and vandalism a common problem at many of Italy’s famous monuments.

READ ALSO: 15 strange ways to get into trouble on holiday in Italy

In Rome alone, this year tourists have made headlines for everything from breaking into the Colosseum to enjoy a drink with a view to driving a car down the Spanish Steps.

Other Italian tourism hotspots, including Florence and Venice, also have varying local rules in place aimed at curbing rowdy behaviour.