Italy’s migrant center controlled by the mafia

Italy’s migrant center controlled by the mafia: Over the past decade one of Italy’s largest migrant centers has been in the hands of the mafia, according to the police.

Police reports suggest that the Arena clan amassed wealth by providing services at Isola di Capo Rizzuto in Italy’s far south and by siphoning off state funds. The clan is alleged to have hidden behind a local Catholic charity which officially runs the centre.

This setup was uncovered earlier today when the police officers arrested 68 people, including a local priest. Another person arrested was Leonardo Sacco, head of the Catholic Misericordia association, that is supposed to control the Sant’Anna Cara immigrant center. The center holds up to 1,500 people at any given time.

Those investigating allege that the Arena clan, which is believed to be part of the powerful ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate, may have taken more than a third of the €100m ($109m/£85m) sanctioned for the center over the past decade.

Mr Edoardo Scordio, a priest, is alleged to have received €132,000 already this year for “spiritual services”, according to an assistant prosecutor.

Likewise the Police in Catanzaro, a city in the southern Calabria region, said that over 500 agents were involved in the arrests of suspects “accused of mafia association, extortion, carrying illegal weapons, fraud, embezzlement to the detriment of the state, (and) theft”.

These arrests come two years after L’Espresso magazine published an investigation, alleging that funds were being usurped and the managers at the center were making money by starving the migrants who were housed there.

Last year it was alleged that the number of migrants said to be living at the center had been greatly exaggerated. Back in 2013 a health inspection discovered that the asylum seekers were being fed small portions of expired food items.

Police also believe that the clan, through Mr Sacco, was awarding contracts, including for food supplies, to other members of the ‘Ndrangheta syndicate, as well as setting up its own associations.

Rosy Bindi, the head of parliament’s anti-mafia commission, the center had effectively been transformed into “a money printing operation for organised crime”. “This operation shows the ability of the mafia to take advantage of the weaknesses and fragility of our times with its predatory and parasitic approach,” she added.

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