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CRIME

Italian police investigate banks in diamond fraud case

Celebrities were among those hit by a diamond scam involving four of Italy's biggest banks.

Italian police investigate banks in diamond fraud case
Italian police cars. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Italian financial police have seized more than 700 million euros as part of a fraud probe into diamond sales involving the country's top four banks, local media reports.

Some 84 million euros were seized from Banco BPM and its subsidiary Banca Aletti, along with 35.5 million euros from Monte dei Paschi, 32 million euros from UniCredit and 11 million euros from Intesa Sanpaolo, Corriere della Sera reported.

Two diamond brokers, Intermarket Diamond Business (IDB) and Diamond Private Investment (DPI), were under investigation for allegedly using the banks to sell the cut stones for more than they were worth.

The seizure order concerned 253 million euros from DPI and 328 million euros from IDB.

The probe was launched after an Italian investigative programme in 2016 discovered that stones sold by IDP and DPI were being offered for twice the sum of comparable gems on the international diamond market listing Rapaport, the Corriere said.

The banks were making a considerable commission from presenting clients to diamond brokers, it said, adding that among those reportedly hit by the scam were celebrities including Italian singer Vasco Rossi.

Italian singer Vasco Rossi was among those hit by the scam. Photo: AFP

READ ALSO: Scam artist kidnapped with nearly €2 million of fake money at Hilton in Milan

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CRIME

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.”

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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.”

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