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




 Italian police arrest mafia member after three women killed in Rome

Italian police on Saturday arrested a mafia member suspected of killing two alleged Chinese prostitutes and a Colombian sex worker in Rome, local media reported.

 Italian police arrest mafia member after three women killed in Rome

The bodies of the two Chinese women were discovered in a residential building in the upmarket Prati district on Thursday morning, while the body of the South American was found in an apartment in the same neighbourhood an hour later.

All three victims were stabbed, according to Italian media reports.

According to the Corriere della Sera newspaper, footage from surveillance cameras allowed police to identify 51-year-old Giandavide De Pau, who had been prosecuted in the past for drug trafficking and sexual assault.

The suspect is reportedly a member of a mafia clan headed by Michele Senese, who is currently serving a life sentence. De Pau is believed to have been one of Senese’s closest collaborators, acting as his personal driver and handyman.

In 2008 and 2011, the suspect had also spent time in a psychiatric hospital.

It is unknown whether the suspected killer was carrying out a mafia hit or acting alone, possibly under the influence of drugs, which were found at the home of some family members where he is believed to have sought refuge after the police manhunt got underway, Corriere della Sera reported.

Several newspapers had warned of a possible “serial killer” in the Italian capital.

The body of one of the Chinese victims was spotted by a neighbour where it lay, naked on a landing. The woman, believed to be in her 40s, had suffered head and stomach injuries, the newspaper said.

When police entered her apartment, they found the body of the second Chinese woman.

Nobody in the building appeared to have heard the murders take place, according to residents.

“Everybody knew there was a house of ill repute here, I’d see people arriving at 2:00 am, 3:00 am,” a woman who lived in the building told reporters.

The body of the Colombian, who was 65, was found by a friend, Corriere della Sera said.