Twenty percent of petrol stations checked by police in Italy are illegal

An extensive operation by Italy's Guardia di Finanza found that one in five petrol stations that were examined on Italy's roads are "illegal," while 50 percent of all holiday rentals investigated along the coast, in mountain areas and in Italy's major cities also don't meet their fiscal obligations.

Twenty percent of petrol stations checked by police in Italy are illegal
Is it definitely unleaded petrol? Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP.

As millions of Italians hit the road and head to the sea for the traditional mid-August holiday of Ferragosto, they may want to think twice about where they stop to refuel.

An investigation by Italy's Guardia di Finanza – the branch of the police which investigates financial crimes – into the fiscal legality of businesses in Italy's commercial sector revealed extensive tax evasion, malpractice, fraud and criminal activity.

The wide-ranging operation investigated holiday rentals, petrol stations, the production and sale of counterfeit goods, licensing in the tourism sector and smuggling.  

Of 1,379 petrol stations that were checked on Italy's roads, “one in five was found to be illegal.” Some 500,000 litres of petrol were confiscated.

The Guardia di Finanza made 22,271 checks on various sectors, an average of 500 a day since mid-June, as part of the operation. The results reveal a similar yet worrying pattern.

More than half of the holiday rentals investigated – second and third homes owned by Italians and put up for rent during the holiday season – have not paid tax on their earnings or registered with the relevant authorities, according to the extensive operation by Italy's Guardia di Finanza (GdF). 

In a review of 895 holiday properties investigated by the GdF, “regularities were identified” in more than 50 per cent of the cases.

Holiday home landlords in the regions of Puglia, Tuscany and Lazio – home to the Italian capital Rome – were the worst offenders. 

In the historic Sicilian coastal town of Taormina, the GdF identified several B&Bs they had no idea existed. The owners of those establishments admitted to having made €130,000 without paying a cent in tax. 

The GdF found that more than 2,000 commercial businesses had no license; 2,080 workers were paid off the books. In Verona, the operation even uncovered a criminal organization dedicated to employing illegal workers, mainly of African origin. Exploited workers were subjected to a “massacring work schedule” and “hunger” wages, according to the report. The criminal business even involved doctors who issued fake medical certificates and employees from Italy's social security and welfare institute INPS who falsified documents. 

At least 587 individuals were also stopped at ports, airports and transit points trying to smuggle drugs, weapons and counterfeit cigarettes. 23 tonnes of various illegal narcotics and 13 tonnes of contraband cigarettes have been seized since mid-June 2018, according to the data made available on August 13th. 

A total of 9 million counterfeit goods were also seized over the summer, an average of 210,000 pieces removed from the market each day. Toys, clothes and electronic goods were the main products seized. 

Many illegal tourism agents operate in full sight of the authorities. Vendors of “potentially dangerous water” as well as a plethora of tourist guides with no official license were arrested near Rome's Colosseum as part of the operation. 

READ MORE: Italian police bust gang trafficking in stolen ancient artefacts




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.”