Italian police disrupt mafia ties to health agency
Italian police said on Monday they had arrested nine people suspected of rigging public health contracts to benefit the ‘Ndrangheta mafia.
Financial police in Reggio Calabria, southern Italy, said the suspects also stole masks and other protective equipment from doctors and nurses during the pandemic while jumping the queue for Covid-19 vaccinations.
“Suspects, in the midst of the pandemic crisis, embezzled anti-Covid-19 personal protective equipment, even taking them away from health staff enlisted in the emergency,” police wrote in a statement.
Calabria, home of the ‘Ndrangheta, Italy’s most powerful organised crime syndicate, has for decades struggled against mafia infiltration of its public institutions, especially its notoriously underperforming health system, where hospitals operate without adequate staff, equipment and basic services.
The debt-ridden provincial health authority continues to be managed by special commissioners after twice being dissolved in the past decade for ties with the ‘Ndrangheta.
The suspects, linked to various clans within the group, are accused of infiltrating the health authority, receiving lucrative contracts for hospital cleaning and sanitation.
At the same time, they provided false invoices to extract more money from health authority and forced certain employees to hand over a portion of their salary worth about 250 euros each month, according to the statement.
Allegations include mafia association, corruption, fraud, extortion and illegal brokering.
One of the suspects in the case is the financial director of Reggio Calabria’s health authority and another is a regional councillor whose election campaign was allegedly financed by some of the suspects, police said.
Police said they had placed another seven people under house arrest and seized assets worth 12 million euros from five individuals.
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