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CRIME

Egypt forms team to keep probing Italian’s murder

Egypt's state prosecutor ordered on Wednesday the formation of an investigating team to probe the brutal murder of Italian student Giulio Regeni, after Rome cast doubt on Cairo's explanation of his death.

Egypt forms team to keep probing Italian's murder
People hold an Italian flag with photos of Giulio Regeni, who was found dead bearing signs of torture after disappearing in Cairo in January. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Regeni, 28, disappeared in central Cairo on January 25, and his mutilated body was found nine days later on the outskirts of the capital.

Last week, the Egyptian police said they had identified a criminal gang linked to his murder, after killing four members and finding the PhD student's passport in the apartment of a sister of one of the slain suspects.

Four people have been detained in relation to Regeni's murder, including the wife and a sister of the alleged leader of the gang.

The other two are the brother and brother-in-law of the gang leader, who was killed in a shoot-out with police along with three other criminals.

Rome has dismissed Cairo's explanations that the gang members, who allegedly posed as police to extort foreigners and Egyptians, were behind Regeni's death.

On Wednesday, Egypt's general prosecutor ordered a team to be set up to probe the student's murder.

“Given that the clues in the case of Giulio Regeni's killing were found in many different areas … the general prosecutor ordered the formation of an investigative team from his office to continue the investigation,” a statement from the prosecutor's office said.

Italy's Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said on Sunday that Egypt agreed to extend the investigation after pressure from Rome.

Italian media and Western diplomatic sources in Cairo have voiced suspicions that Egyptian security services were behind the murder.

Regeni had been researching labour movements in Egypt, a sensitive topic, and had written articles critical of the government under a pen name.

His death has threatened to hit Egypt's already struggling tourism sector, which has seen falling visitor numbers since the ouster of longtime leader Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Tourism, a cornerstone of the economy, was dealt a body blow after the October 31st bombing of a Russian airliner, claimed by the Islamic State group, that killed all 224 people on board.

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MAFIA

Italian police seize €250 million and arrest 56 in latest mafia blitz

In its latest mafia sting, Italian police took down a large 'Ndrangheta ring in southern Calabria, placing 56 people under investigation including a regional councillor and a former head of the regional tourism board.

Italian police seize €250 million and arrest 56 in latest mafia blitz

The early-morning blitz by over 300 police focused on areas of Calabria – Italy’s poorest region – under the control of the Mancuso clan, a powerful branch of the infamous ‘Ndrangheta, many of whose top operatives are among hundreds of defendants in an ongoing ‘maxi-trial’.

Fifty-six people, many already in prison, were put under criminal investigation for a series of crimes including mafia-related conspiracy, extortion, kidnapping, bribery and possession of weapons, police and prosecutors said.

READ ALSO: ‘Ndrangheta: It’s time to bust some myths about the Calabrian mafia

Besides alleged mafia members, the operation also snared businessmen, a regional councillor released from prison days earlier, a former head of the regional tourism board and two civil servants, police said.

The incarcerated boss of the clan, Luigi Mancuso, also known as “The Supreme”, is the biggest mafioso in the massive mafia trial that started in January 2021.

Still, police said, his clan and affiliates, including the La Rosa and Accortini families, have continued to dominate illegal activities in the Vibo Valentia province, which is located right on the toe of Italy’s boot and is widely known as the ‘Coast of the Gods’ due to its stunning coastal views.

One mafia scheme involved the infiltration of a foreign tour operator in Pizzo Calabro, overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea.

No one talks

In Calabria, the extent of the ‘Ndrangheta’s reach in the local economy has made it near impossible to eradicate it.

By controlling the bulk of cocaine flowing into Europe, the ‘Ndrangheta has surpassed Sicily’s Cosa Nostra in power and wealth. It has extended far beyond its rural roots and now operates internationally, with illegal gains reinvested in the legitimate economy.

In the area around Vibo Valentia, extortion of local businesses and the fixing of public tenders is also common.

The allegations against those arrested Thursday include the transport and sale of stolen farm machinery to Malta and Romania, police said.

The sting carried out on Thursday extended to other parts of Calabria, Palermo in Sicily and as far as Rome and Milan, police said.

READ ALSO: Meet Nicola Gratteri, the prosecutor leading Italy’s battle against the mafia

In a press conference, anti-mafia prosecutor Nicola Gratteri, whose efforts to defeat the ‘Ndrangheta have forced him to live under police escort for over 30 years, called the group a “fierce mafia syndicate” controlling areas around the tourist resort of Tropea.

Francesco Messina, who leads Italy’s organised crime investigative unit (DAC), cited the economic power of the clan, which relies locally on “substantial” extortion activity.

The “total absence” of complaints to authorities was striking, Messina said, underscoring the ‘Ndrangheta’s power to intimidate.

By Alexandria Sage

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