The Press

‘Last king of Rome’ jailed for 20 years


ITALY: A one-eyed gangster known as ‘‘the last king of Rome’’ was sentenced yesterday to 20 years for corruption, but judges said his reign of terror was that of a common criminal and had nothing to do with the mafia.

Massimo Carminati, 59, a former rightwing terrorist who lost an eye in a shootout with police, was the leader of a gang that used corruption and intimidati­on to win public contracts and divert millions of euros into its members’ pockets.

Their activities led to a drastic decline in Rome’s public services and to the election a year ago of Virginia Raggi, the mayor from the anti-corruption Five Star Movement.

Carminati was convicted along with 40 associates, including local politician­s and hardened criminals, in a trial dubbed Mafia Capitale by the media.

Though handing out stiff sentences, the court said Carminati’s gang did not qualify as a mafia organisati­on, until now the preserve of criminal organisati­ons originatin­g in southerm Italy.

Carminati’s chief accomplice, Salvatore Buzzi, a leftwing sympathise­r once cited as an example of prisoner redemption, was sentenced to 19 years.

Imprisoned for murdering an accomplice in a forged cheques racket, he studied for a degree in jail and later provided fellow prisoners with a chance to build a new life by working in his social cooperativ­e, which maintained public parks and looked after migrants.

In one of a series of telephone intercepts that have written a new chapter of Italian criminal folklore, Buzzi boasted to an associate: ‘‘Do you have any idea how much money I earn from immigrants? The drug trade is less profitable.’’

In another, Carminati likened himself and his accomplice­s to the inhabitant­s of JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth. ‘‘There are the living above and the dead below, and we are in the middle,’’ he explained. In Middle Earth all levels mixed, criminal favours were exchanged and ‘‘it’s even possible that I find myself at dinner with Berlusconi’’.

Carminati was also heard expressing doubts about the advantages of his national celebrity, with his own immortalis­ation in fiction and film proving an embarrassm­ent.

‘‘In my circle these things make you ridiculous.’’

Local politician­s of both right and left were convicted of pocketing bribes and received sentences of up to 12 years.

Buzzi summed up his attitude to politician­s in a pithy expression: ‘‘You have to milk the cow, but you have to give it something to eat.’’

The deeply ingrained graft and malpractic­e exposed by the 20-month trial, held in a fortified courtroom attached to Rebibbia prison, has been blamed for the capital’s financial crisis .

‘‘Romans are only too aware that there is a deep wound in the fabric of the city,’’ Raggi said after the verdict was announced.

- The Times

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