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CRIME

‘Blind’ Italian scammer arrested after driving

An Italian man who received government support for years due to blindness was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of fraud after being seen driving, window shopping and riding a bike, news reports said.

A Sicilian man has been arrested for faking blindness after he was filmed driving and window shopping
A Sicilian man has been arrested for faking blindness after he was filmed driving and window shopping. MARCELLO PATERNOSTRO / AFP

The man in Palermo, Sicily, received at least 170,000 euros ($191,000) in welfare since 2008 after attesting that he was “totally blind” as a result of a congenital problem, local media reported.

Italy’s financial police were alerted after the man renewed his driver’s license in 2018 despite his earlier declaration, media said.

READ ALSO: ‘Blind’ man filmed giving directions and shopping

During stake-outs, authorities witnessed the man driving – while dialling on his phone at the same time – looking at shop windows while walking through a busy mall and teaching his daughter to ride a bike.

The 40-year-old was also seen riding a scooter without insurance, Palermo Today reported, adding that the man was nicknamed “Berlusconi,” after Italy’s former prime minister with a history of legal problems.

The man was already known to authorities, having received a jail sentence of nearly 15 years in the first instance last year for being part of a group that staged fake traffic accidents to receive insurance payouts.

READ ALSO: Italian police bust bone-breaking insurance fraud gangs

The investigating judge in this latest case ordered the man’s arrest on charges of aggravated fraud to obtain public funds.

The military seized three motor vehicles, three motorbikes, a garage, and the latest generation electric bicycle which the accused had been filmed riding, reports the news daily Il Corriere della Sera.

The case is under appeal.

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CRIME

Italy remembers murdered anti-mafia judge Falcone

Italy commemorated the death of Italian judge Giovanni Falcone on Monday, thirty years after the brutal Capaci bombing.

Italy remembers murdered anti-mafia judge Falcone

The entire country paid tribute on Monday to anti-mafia judge Giovanni Falcone, killed by the Sicilian mafia 30 years ago in a car bomb murder that shocked the country.

Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese laid a wreath at the memorial at the site of the blast at Capaci, near Palermo, that killed Falcone, his wife, and three members of his police escort on May 23rd 1992.

Another ceremony in Palermo was attended by Italian President Sergio Mattarella, whose brother Piersanti, then Sicily’s regional president, was also murdered by the mafia.

In a statement, Prime Minister Mario Draghi hailed the legacy of Falcone, saying that thanks to his “courage, professionalism and determination, Italy has become a freer and fairer country”.

He said Falcone and his colleagues – one of whom, Paolo Borsellino, was killed by Cosa Nostra two months later – “dealt decisive blows against the mafia”.

“Their heroism had rooted anti-mafia values in society, in new generations, in republican institutions,” he added, saying the “relentless fight against organised crime and […] the search for truth” must continue.

The mob used a skateboard to place a 500-kilogramme (1100-pound) charge of TNT and ammonium nitrate in a tunnel under the motorway which linked the airport to the centre of Palermo.

Falcone, driving a white Fiat Croma, was returning from Rome for the weekend. At a look-out point on the hill above, a mobster nicknamed “The Pig” pressed the remote control button as the judge’s three-car convoy passed.

The blast ripped through the asphalt, shredding bodies and metal, and flinging the lead car several hundred metres.

READ ALSO: How murdered judge Giovanni Falcone shaped Italy’s fight against the mafia

On July 19th, Borsellino was also killed in a car bomb attack, along with five members of his escort. Only his driver survived.

Falcone posed a real threat to Cosa Nostra, an organised crime group made famous by The Godfather trilogy, and which boasted access to the highest levels of Italian power.

He and Borsellino were later credited with revolutionising the understanding of the mafia, working closely with the first informants and compiling evidence for a groundbreaking ‘maxi-trial’ in which hundreds of mobsters were convicted in 1987.

“Thanks to Falcone and Borsellino, the Sicilian mafia became a notorious fact, not something that had to be proved to exist at every trial,” anti-mafia prosecutor Marzia Sabella told AFP.

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