Police bust mafia pocketing income support meant for Italy’s poor

More than 100 mobsters have embezzled state funds destined for Italy's poorest, Italian police said on Wednesday.

All 101 belonged to the 'Ndrangheta in Calabria, and included wealthy gangsters with close ties to bosses or with key roles within the organised crime group, a statement said.

Alessandro Pannunzi, the son of a man dubbed Italy's version of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, was among those cashing in.

His father Roberto was “unanimously considered by Italian and American investigators to be one of the world's most important cocaine brokers, and who boasted that he did not count his money, but weighed it”, police said.


Alessandro's wife is the daughter of “one of the main Colombian cocaine producers,” it added.

Each mobster will have to pay back their share of the 516,000 euros ($566,000) stolen from the state, police said.

The wealthy mobsters had submitted claims for income support under false identities, Italian media reports said, and police were investigating whether those tasked with inspecting them may have had ties to the criminal underworld.

The poverty relief scheme known as the reddito di cittadinza, or “citizens' income”, is intended for the five million Italians living below the poverty line.

The 'Ndrangheta, which takes its name from the ancient Greek word for “courage”, is generally believed to have outgrown its Sicilian and Neapolitan competitors thanks to cocaine trafficking from Latin America.


Its stronghold is Calabria in Italy's south, but it has become increasingly powerful in northern Italy and abroad too. Mafia experts say it is the only organised crime group present on every continent.

The income support sting came as warnings abounded in Italy over risks the mafia could flourish during the deep economic recession caused by its economically devastating national lockdown.

Experts warn usury is already on the rise and crime groups will also be looking to feast on public aid meant for suffering businesses.


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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.