Mafia Cap­i­tale: Gang that preyed on Rome in the dock

Kuwait Times - - ANALYSIS -

The al­leged ring­leaders of a mafia gang whose crim­i­nal ten­ta­cles reached into al­most ev­ery depart­ment of Rome’s City Hall went on trial Thurs­day on a land­mark day for Italy’s bat­tle against or­ga­nized crime. Mas­simo Carmi­nati, a con­victed gang­ster with a his­tory of in­volve­ment with vi­o­lent far­right groups, and 45 oth­ers are ac­cused of op­er­at­ing a mafia-style net­work that used ex­tor­tion, fraud and theft to di­vert mil­lions of eu­ros des­tined for pub­lic ser­vices into their own pock­ets.

Carmi­nati and his al­leged right-hand man Sal­va­tore Buzzi, a con­victed mur­derer, fol­lowed Thurs­day’s open­ing ses­sion in Rome’s crim­i­nal court by video link from their pri­son cells, their pres­ence in court hav­ing been deemed a se­cu­rity risk. Sub­se­quent hear­ings in a trial sched­uled to run un­til next sum­mer will be held in the Re­bib­bia pri­son on the out­skirts of the cap­i­tal. Prose­cu­tors say the rack­e­teer­ing in Rome went on for years, helped to bring the city to the brink of financial col­lapse and con­trib­uted to the cur­rent sorry state of its in­fras­truc­ture and many of its pub­lic ser­vices.

‘Trial by Me­dia’

Among those on trial are lo­cal politi­cians, busi­ness­men and of­fi­cials. All are im­pli­cated in rig­ging ten­ders and other cor­rupt schemes de­signed to siphon off cash des­tined for every­thing from garbage re­cy­cling to the re­cep­tion of newly ar­rived refugees. Hun­dreds more, in­clud­ing former mayor Gianni Ale­manno, have been in­ves­ti­gated in a case dubbed “Mafia Cap­i­tale” by prose­cu­tors. The scale and na­ture of the case make it the most sig­nif­i­cant anti-cor­rup­tion op­er­a­tion in Italy since the “clean hands” cam­paign of the early 1990s led to half the coun­try’s law­mak­ers be­ing in­dicted for tak­ing bribes. Much of the case is ex­pected to be taken up with de­bate over whether the ac­cused in­di­vid­u­als can be said to have con­sti­tuted a mafia-type or­gan­i­sa­tion as de­fined by leg­is­la­tion de­signed to com­bat more tra­di­tional crime syn­di­cates such as Si­cily’s Cosa Nos­tra, the Neapoli­tan Camorra and Cal­abria’s ‘Ndrangheta.

If the pros­e­cu­tion can prove that they did, Carmi­nati, 57, and Buzzi, 59, will face much tougher sen­tences than they would if found guilty sim­ply of cor­rup­tion. Carmi­nati’s lawyer, Gio­sue Naso, said the pros­e­cu­tion had no proof of a mafia con­spir­acy and that his client would re­buff the charges. “He wants to clar­ify a load of things and be­lieve me, he will do it,” Naso told re­porters. “In this whole story the thing that both­ers him most is his name be­ing linked to ‘mafia’ and to drugs. He has ab­so­lutely noth­ing to do with the mafia and drugs dis­gust him. “And let’s not men­tion the sup­posed arms cache that has never been found. This is a me­dia trial, purely for the con­sump­tion of jour­nal­ists.”

Mid­dle World

For many non-Ital­ian ob­servers, the most eye-open­ing as­pect of the case is that Carmi­nati and Buzzi were ever able to get any­where near pub­lic money given their back­grounds. Carmi­nati was given a 10-year pri­son term in 1998 for mem­ber­ship of the Banda della Magliana, a crim­i­nal crew which ruled Rome’s un­der­world in the 1970s and 1980s and, prose­cu­tors say, has rein­vented it­self in the form of Mafia Cap­i­tale.

Carmi­nati is also a former mem­ber of the Nu­clei Ar­mati Rivoluzionari (Armed Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Nu­clei), a far-right group that was in­volved in the 1980 bomb­ing of Bologna rail­way sta­tion which left 85 peo­ple dead. He lost his left eye in a 1981 shoot-out with po­lice. Buzzi, a na­tive of the Magliana sub­urb of Rome which gave birth to the no­to­ri­ous gang, was con­victed in 1983 of mur­der­ing an ac­com­plice in a cheque-steal­ing scam who con­fessed to po­lice. The bru­tal killing-the vic­tim was stabbed 34 times­re­sulted in Buzzi re­ceiv­ing a 30-year pri­son sen­tence. But he served only six be­hind bars af­ter us­ing his jail time to pur­sue his ed­u­ca­tion and earn a rep­u­ta­tion as a re­formed char­ac­ter.

Much of the pros­e­cu­tion ev­i­dence is based on wire­taps ob­tained af­ter judges ac­cepted the prose­cu­tors were deal­ing with a gen­uine mafia struc­ture. In one record­ing, Buzzi is heard boast­ing that skim­ming cash in­tended to feed and ac­com­mo­date asy­lum-seek­ers from Africa and the Mid­dle East is more lu­cra­tive than drug deal­ing. In an­other, Carmi­nati seems to de­scribe him­self and his as­so­ci­ates as the link be­tween the un­der­world and reg­u­lar so­ci­ety. “There are the liv­ing up above and the dead down be­low, we are in be­tween, in this mid­dle world where ev­ery­one meets,” he is heard to say. —AFP

By An­gus Mackin­non

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