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CRIME

Italy busts major mafia scam that defrauded the EU of millions

Italian police have dismantled a massive mafia operation in Sicily which had been defrauding the European Union of millions of euros in funds destined for farmers.

Italy busts major mafia scam that defrauded the EU of millions
Images from a police helicopter showing suspects tracked as part of a major anti-mafia operation in Sicily. Photo: AFP/Guardia di Finanza

A total of 94 people had been arrested in early morning raids, the public prosecutor in Messina said in a statement on Wednesday.

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Those arrested included the heads of two mafia families, a notary, entrepreneurs and public administrators, reportedly charged with helping farmers access the funds.

Since 2013, the so-called Tortorici Mafia – named after a town within the Nebrodi mountainous area in the island's northeast – had defrauded about 10 million euros from the EU,  reported Italian TV news channel Rai24.

A map showing the areas of Sicily where mafia clans were running the scam. Photo: Guardia di Finanza

The clan falsely claimed they owned plots of land that in reality were owned by the region and local councils, thereby tapping EU funding.

Key to the plot were employees of a public agency for agricultural payments, which distributes EU funds to farmers, and those working for assistance centres set up to help farmers tap available funding.

In a charge sheet, Judge Sergio Matroeni said the swindle relied on the “unprincipled support” of white-collar workers with the “necessary know-how to infiltrate the mafia into the nerve centre of public funding” and knew how to exploit lax controls.

Forty-eight of those arrested were sent to jail while the others were placed under house arrest, police said.

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CRIME

Italy records sharp rise in femicides over the past year

Murders of women in Italy increased by nearly 16 percent over the past year, with the vast majority committed by a partner or ex-partner.

Italy records sharp rise in femicides over the past year

Data from Italy’s interior ministry on Monday showed there were 125 femicides between 1 August 2021 and 31 July 2022, compared with 108 during the same period in the previous year.

Of that number, the vast majority of murders — 108 — were committed within the family sphere or an emotional context, while 68 murders, or 63 percent of the total, were committed by the victim’s partner or ex-partner, data showed.

There were a total of 319 murders in Italy in the period.

The numbers show that, on average, a woman is killed every three days in Italy.

READ ALSO: ANALYSIS: ‘Violence against women conditions every aspect of our lives’

According to a November report by the European Institute for Gender Equality, Italy came in ninth out of 15 EU member states for the number of murders of women by intimate partners, based on 2018 data.

It came in tenth when looking at homicide committed by family members and relatives.

Womens’ rights campaigners say attitudes must change in Italy, where cases of violent crimes committed against women by their partners or ex-partners are often portrayed in the media as tragic stories of love gone sour, with the killers described as “jealous”.

READ ALSO: Almost half of Italian women report suffering sexual harassment

Almost 3.5 million women in Italy have been victims of stalking, according to data from national statistics agency Istat – but only 22 percent of those report the act or seek help.

Around one in three Italian women suffer abuse at some point in their life.

Femicide commonly refers to the killing of a girl or woman by a partner or family member.

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