Mafia cops net €1.6bn in sting on former labourers
More than €1.6 billion worth of assets have been seized from a family of five Sicilian pensioners in one of Italy's largest ever anti-mafia hauls, police said yesterday.
The three brothers and two sisters, described as "businesspeople" from an area outside Palermo, the Sicilian capital, allegedly received help from the island's Cosa Nostra mafia to win construction contracts related to public works.
The businesses, property and bank accounts seized belong to Carmelo Virga (66), his brothers Vincenzo (78) and 71-year-old Francesco, and their sisters Anna (76) and Rosa (68).
The siblings, originally from the small town of Marineo in the suburbs of Palermo, are believed to have worked as labourers in the 1980s before allegedly amassing millions under the protection of Cosa Nostra.
The Palermo division of the Anti-Mafia Department (DIA) said it had seized some 800 buildings, including houses and factories, motor vehicles and dozens of bank accounts.
"The [€1.6 billion] sum is enormous for a family unit that until 30 years ago was made up of carpenters, manual labourers and housewives," said Adelmo Lusi, vice-chief of DIA operations.
Carmelo's son, Gaetano, who has collaborated with several anti-mafia organisations in the past, told police he and his family had been consistently threatened by the mafia between May and November 2010.
He told investigators that he was approached by a member of the mafia, who told him: "Remember that you have children."
The operation was aimed at "known entrepreneurs from the Palermo area who belong to the Marineo mafia family, linked to the Corleone clan", the DIA said.
The infamous Corleone clan are a faction within Cosa Nostra that dominated the organisation during the 1980s and 1990s.
News of the investigation came as 10 people were arrested for mafia association in southern Germany in a joint operation by Italian and German police. (©Daily Telegraph, London)