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Italian police uncover gang that ‘brainwashed kids and sold them to foster parents’

Italian police have arrested 18 people, including a mayor, doctors and social workers, for allegedly brainwashing vulnerable children into thinking their parents had abused them so they could then be sold to foster parents.

Italian police uncover gang that 'brainwashed kids and sold them to foster parents'
Police in northern Italy say authorities led children to reject their own parents so they could be rehomed for cash. File photo: Romain Lafabregue/AFP

Police in the northern city of Reggio Emilia made the arrests after an investigation started in 2018 revealed an alleged network of carers who used methods including electroshock to make the children believe they had been sexually abused.

The network then allegedly gave the children to foster families in exchange for cash, while keeping gifts and letters sent to the children by their real parents hidden in a warehouse that was discovered by police.

READ ALSO: One in every 100 children in Italy is abused

The alleged abuse was reported by Italian media and confirmed to AFP by police in Bibbiano, near Reggio Emilia, on Thursday.

The accused include psychotherapists working for a social work association in Moncalieri, near Turin, and the mayor of Bibbiano.

“These accusations, if confirmed, are frightening and shocking,” Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said at the G20 meeting in Japan.


A church in the town of Bibbiano. Photo: SIG SG 510CC0, Wikimedia

To brainwash the children, those arrested allegedly forged child-like drawings with sexual connotations and used electroshock therapy as a “little memory machine” to create fake abuse memories, while the therapists are accused of dressing up as “wicked” children's story characters.

The probe, codenamed 'Angels and Demons', revealed a scheme to “pass off as a model welfare system for abused minors what was in reality an illegal business to the children's detriment,” La Repubblica newspaper reported.

“According to investigators, the aim of the arrested group was to take children away from families in difficult social situations and to give them, for money, to other parents,” said the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

Some of the foster parents have been accused of sexually abusing the children they paid money for, La Repubblica reported.

Police declined to say how many children were involved, or of what age.

Hundreds of thousands of euros were involved, Italian media reported. 

Member comments

  1. This is too bizarre for me to immediately accept. After the McMartin Preschool debacle, I’m much more hesitant to immediately believe these crazy conspiracies… unless of course it is about Hillary Clinton in the basement of a pizza parlor. Then, I’m all in. 😉

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BOLOGNA

Italy’s president calls for ‘full truth’ on anniversary of Bologna bombing

President Sergio Mattarella said on Tuesday it was the state's duty to shed more light on the 1980 bombing of Bologna's train station, on the 42nd anniversary of the attack that killed 85 people and injured 200.

Italy's president calls for 'full truth' on anniversary of Bologna bombing

On August 2nd 1980, a bomb exploded in the railway station’s waiting room, causing devastation on an unprecedented scale.

Five members of terrorist groups were later convicted in relation to the bombing, the worst episode in Italy’s ‘Years of Lead’ period of political violence in the 1970s and 80s.

Most recently, in 2020, a former member of the far-right Armed Revolutionary Nucleus (NAR) was sentenced to life imprisonment for providing logistical support to those who carried out the attack.

But suspicions remain of cover-ups and the involvement of “deviant elements” within the nation’s security services, reported Italian news agency Ansa.

READ ALSO: Bologna massacre: 40 years on, questions remain over Italy’s deadliest postwar terror attack

“The bomb that killed people who happened to be at the station on that morning 42 years ago still reverberates with violence in the depths of the country’s conscience,” Mattarella said in a speech marking the anniversary on Tuesday.

“It was the act of cowardly men of unequalled inhumanity, one of the most terrible of the history of the Italian Republic.

A train compartment at Bologna station pictured following the 1980 bombing attributed to the neo-fascist terrorist organization Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari.

“It was a terrorist attack that sought to destabilise democratic institutions and sow fear, hitting ordinary citizens going about their everyday tasks.

“On the day of the anniversary our thoughts go, above all, to the relatives forced to suffer the greatest pain.

“The neo-fascist nature of the massacre has been established in court and further steps have been made to unveil the cover-ups and those who ordered the attack in order to comply with the Republic’s duty to seek the full truth”.

The bombing remains Western Europe’s fourth deadliest postwar terror attack, and one of the most devastating in Italy’s history.

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