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Mafia Fugitive Found Running Pizzeria in Spain

Mafia Fugitive Found Running Pizzeria in Spain


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A wanted mafioso was finally found in a pizza restaurant in Spain

Wikimedia/Neutrality

Police have been searching for years for a fugitive mafioso who was just discovered running a little pizza restaurant in Spain.

In a scene like something out of a movie, European police finally tracked down a fugitive mafioso for whom they’ve been searching for several years, and it turns out he was running a little pizzeria in Spain the whole time.

According to The Local, 44-year-old Pasquale Brunese is a suspected member of the Camorra crime family in Naples, where he was arrested in 2007 for possession of cocaine and heroin. He managed to escape after his arrest, and police were not able to find him again.

Brunese was reportedly sentenced to nine years and nine months in prison for extortion, drug trafficking, and organized crime, but Brunese never served any of it, because police couldn’t find him.

Brunese was finally found last week when police in Spain arrested him at a little pizza restaurant called A mi Manera in Puerto de Segunto in the Mediterranean port of Valencia. Brunese had been running the place under an assumed name,

Brunese was taken away from his cute little pizzeria and will have to go before Spain’s top criminal court. Italy has asked Spain to send Brunese back home to Italy so they can put him in jail.


How the mafia got to our food

Giuseppe Antoci had been warned more than once. “You will end with your throat cut,” read one note, composed entirely of individual letters clipped from newspapers in ransom-note style.

In May 2016, they came. Antoci, then president of the Nebrodi National Park, a protected area in Sicily’s north-east, was returning home from a meeting accompanied by his police escort. As his armour-plated Lancia Thesis rounded a bend in the Miraglia forest, he saw the mountain road was strewn with rocks, forcing the driver to stop.

First, two hitmen fired at the vehicle’s wheels to immobilise it. Then a shootout ensued. The would-be assassins eventually fled but Antoci recalls his terror that night: “The police tried to move me to another car but, in my fear, I didn’t recognise them. I thought I was being kidnapped. I thought of my family and prayed they were safe.”

Antoci believes the attempted hit was ordered by the Sicilian Mafia in retaliation for new regulations blocking millions of euros in EU subsidies on farmland from reaching it. It was the most serious Mafia attack on a state representative since the high-profile assassinations of several Italian prosecutors in the 1990s.

Siphoning off farm subsidies does not carry the same dubious “glamour” as the racketeering or drug running usually associated with the Mafia. But it has become a highly lucrative income stream for Italy’s organised-crime syndicates. Their forays into farming do not end there: in recent years, they have infiltrated the entire food chain, according to a Rome-based think-tank, the Observatory of Crime in Agriculture and the Food Chain.

&aposWith profit margins as high as 2,000 per cent, why sell drugs or carry out robberies?&apos Giuseppe Antoci, former president of the Nebrodi National Park © Valentino Bellini

Taking advantage of the decade-long economic crisis in Italy, the Mafia has bought up cheap farmland, livestock, markets and restaurants, laundering its money through what is one of the country’s leading industries. The value of the so-called agromafia business has almost doubled from �.5bn in 2011 to more than �n in 2018 (growing at an average of 10 per cent a year), according to the Observatory.

It now accounts for 15 per cent of total estimated Mafia turnover. “The reliability of the business in the crisis brought about the interest of the Mafia,” says Stefano Masini, a law professor at the Observatory. “It’s profitable and not dangerous like the drug market. They are now inserted in the industry from field to fork.”

From the terroirs of Chianti to the ancient olive groves of Puglia, Italy’s Mafia organisations have put down roots throughout the food and agriculture sector, from production to packaging, transport and distribution. Police data indicate that all of Italy’s major crime syndicates — the Neapolitan Camorra, the Sicilian Cosa Nostra and the ’Ndrangheta from the region of Calabria — invest in farming.

According to Professor Umberto Santino, a Mafia historian from Palermo, the Mob’s interests in the agricultural industry now extend to “human trafficking, money laundering, extortion, loan sharking, illegal breeding, backstreet butchering and baking and the burial of toxic waste on farmland. It’s an integrated cycle, a full package of systematic interactions.”

Rugged terrain in the Nebrodi National Park: in 2013, many of the park’s leases were found to be under Mafia control © Valentino Bellini

In a globalised industry, the Mafia’s reach extends beyond Italy’s borders, affecting the path of food to dinner tables around the world. Often the methods remain old-school: bribery, intimidation, counterfeiting and extortion. But the cartels have also developed white-collar expertise in infiltrating the local councils and committees that award tenders and subsidies.

Under the scheme uncovered by Antoci, Mafiosi and their affiliates leased hundreds of thousands of hectares of public land in the Nebrodi Park from the state, using intimidation to scare away rival bids. When Antoci took over in 2013 he found 80 per cent of the park’s leases were under Mafia control, including a lease to Gaetano Riina, brother of Salvatore “Toto” Riina, also known as “The Beast”, the Sicilian Mafia chief who died last year while serving life imprisonment.

According to Antoci, it was rare that this land was actually farmed. A Mafia family could claim about 𠫁m a year in EU subsidies on 1,000 hectares, while leasing it for as little as �,000. “With profit margins as high as 2,000 per cent, with no risk, why sell drugs or carry out robberies when you can just wait for the cheque to arrive in the post?” he says by telephone from his home in the coastal village of Santo Stefano di Camastra, where he lives under armed guard.


How the mafia got to our food

Giuseppe Antoci had been warned more than once. “You will end with your throat cut,” read one note, composed entirely of individual letters clipped from newspapers in ransom-note style.

In May 2016, they came. Antoci, then president of the Nebrodi National Park, a protected area in Sicily’s north-east, was returning home from a meeting accompanied by his police escort. As his armour-plated Lancia Thesis rounded a bend in the Miraglia forest, he saw the mountain road was strewn with rocks, forcing the driver to stop.

First, two hitmen fired at the vehicle’s wheels to immobilise it. Then a shootout ensued. The would-be assassins eventually fled but Antoci recalls his terror that night: “The police tried to move me to another car but, in my fear, I didn’t recognise them. I thought I was being kidnapped. I thought of my family and prayed they were safe.”

Antoci believes the attempted hit was ordered by the Sicilian Mafia in retaliation for new regulations blocking millions of euros in EU subsidies on farmland from reaching it. It was the most serious Mafia attack on a state representative since the high-profile assassinations of several Italian prosecutors in the 1990s.

Siphoning off farm subsidies does not carry the same dubious “glamour” as the racketeering or drug running usually associated with the Mafia. But it has become a highly lucrative income stream for Italy’s organised-crime syndicates. Their forays into farming do not end there: in recent years, they have infiltrated the entire food chain, according to a Rome-based think-tank, the Observatory of Crime in Agriculture and the Food Chain.

&aposWith profit margins as high as 2,000 per cent, why sell drugs or carry out robberies?&apos Giuseppe Antoci, former president of the Nebrodi National Park © Valentino Bellini

Taking advantage of the decade-long economic crisis in Italy, the Mafia has bought up cheap farmland, livestock, markets and restaurants, laundering its money through what is one of the country’s leading industries. The value of the so-called agromafia business has almost doubled from �.5bn in 2011 to more than �n in 2018 (growing at an average of 10 per cent a year), according to the Observatory.

It now accounts for 15 per cent of total estimated Mafia turnover. “The reliability of the business in the crisis brought about the interest of the Mafia,” says Stefano Masini, a law professor at the Observatory. “It’s profitable and not dangerous like the drug market. They are now inserted in the industry from field to fork.”

From the terroirs of Chianti to the ancient olive groves of Puglia, Italy’s Mafia organisations have put down roots throughout the food and agriculture sector, from production to packaging, transport and distribution. Police data indicate that all of Italy’s major crime syndicates — the Neapolitan Camorra, the Sicilian Cosa Nostra and the ’Ndrangheta from the region of Calabria — invest in farming.

According to Professor Umberto Santino, a Mafia historian from Palermo, the Mob’s interests in the agricultural industry now extend to “human trafficking, money laundering, extortion, loan sharking, illegal breeding, backstreet butchering and baking and the burial of toxic waste on farmland. It’s an integrated cycle, a full package of systematic interactions.”

Rugged terrain in the Nebrodi National Park: in 2013, many of the park’s leases were found to be under Mafia control © Valentino Bellini

In a globalised industry, the Mafia’s reach extends beyond Italy’s borders, affecting the path of food to dinner tables around the world. Often the methods remain old-school: bribery, intimidation, counterfeiting and extortion. But the cartels have also developed white-collar expertise in infiltrating the local councils and committees that award tenders and subsidies.

Under the scheme uncovered by Antoci, Mafiosi and their affiliates leased hundreds of thousands of hectares of public land in the Nebrodi Park from the state, using intimidation to scare away rival bids. When Antoci took over in 2013 he found 80 per cent of the park’s leases were under Mafia control, including a lease to Gaetano Riina, brother of Salvatore “Toto” Riina, also known as “The Beast”, the Sicilian Mafia chief who died last year while serving life imprisonment.

According to Antoci, it was rare that this land was actually farmed. A Mafia family could claim about 𠫁m a year in EU subsidies on 1,000 hectares, while leasing it for as little as �,000. “With profit margins as high as 2,000 per cent, with no risk, why sell drugs or carry out robberies when you can just wait for the cheque to arrive in the post?” he says by telephone from his home in the coastal village of Santo Stefano di Camastra, where he lives under armed guard.


How the mafia got to our food

Giuseppe Antoci had been warned more than once. “You will end with your throat cut,” read one note, composed entirely of individual letters clipped from newspapers in ransom-note style.

In May 2016, they came. Antoci, then president of the Nebrodi National Park, a protected area in Sicily’s north-east, was returning home from a meeting accompanied by his police escort. As his armour-plated Lancia Thesis rounded a bend in the Miraglia forest, he saw the mountain road was strewn with rocks, forcing the driver to stop.

First, two hitmen fired at the vehicle’s wheels to immobilise it. Then a shootout ensued. The would-be assassins eventually fled but Antoci recalls his terror that night: “The police tried to move me to another car but, in my fear, I didn’t recognise them. I thought I was being kidnapped. I thought of my family and prayed they were safe.”

Antoci believes the attempted hit was ordered by the Sicilian Mafia in retaliation for new regulations blocking millions of euros in EU subsidies on farmland from reaching it. It was the most serious Mafia attack on a state representative since the high-profile assassinations of several Italian prosecutors in the 1990s.

Siphoning off farm subsidies does not carry the same dubious “glamour” as the racketeering or drug running usually associated with the Mafia. But it has become a highly lucrative income stream for Italy’s organised-crime syndicates. Their forays into farming do not end there: in recent years, they have infiltrated the entire food chain, according to a Rome-based think-tank, the Observatory of Crime in Agriculture and the Food Chain.

&aposWith profit margins as high as 2,000 per cent, why sell drugs or carry out robberies?&apos Giuseppe Antoci, former president of the Nebrodi National Park © Valentino Bellini

Taking advantage of the decade-long economic crisis in Italy, the Mafia has bought up cheap farmland, livestock, markets and restaurants, laundering its money through what is one of the country’s leading industries. The value of the so-called agromafia business has almost doubled from �.5bn in 2011 to more than �n in 2018 (growing at an average of 10 per cent a year), according to the Observatory.

It now accounts for 15 per cent of total estimated Mafia turnover. “The reliability of the business in the crisis brought about the interest of the Mafia,” says Stefano Masini, a law professor at the Observatory. “It’s profitable and not dangerous like the drug market. They are now inserted in the industry from field to fork.”

From the terroirs of Chianti to the ancient olive groves of Puglia, Italy’s Mafia organisations have put down roots throughout the food and agriculture sector, from production to packaging, transport and distribution. Police data indicate that all of Italy’s major crime syndicates — the Neapolitan Camorra, the Sicilian Cosa Nostra and the ’Ndrangheta from the region of Calabria — invest in farming.

According to Professor Umberto Santino, a Mafia historian from Palermo, the Mob’s interests in the agricultural industry now extend to “human trafficking, money laundering, extortion, loan sharking, illegal breeding, backstreet butchering and baking and the burial of toxic waste on farmland. It’s an integrated cycle, a full package of systematic interactions.”

Rugged terrain in the Nebrodi National Park: in 2013, many of the park’s leases were found to be under Mafia control © Valentino Bellini

In a globalised industry, the Mafia’s reach extends beyond Italy’s borders, affecting the path of food to dinner tables around the world. Often the methods remain old-school: bribery, intimidation, counterfeiting and extortion. But the cartels have also developed white-collar expertise in infiltrating the local councils and committees that award tenders and subsidies.

Under the scheme uncovered by Antoci, Mafiosi and their affiliates leased hundreds of thousands of hectares of public land in the Nebrodi Park from the state, using intimidation to scare away rival bids. When Antoci took over in 2013 he found 80 per cent of the park’s leases were under Mafia control, including a lease to Gaetano Riina, brother of Salvatore “Toto” Riina, also known as “The Beast”, the Sicilian Mafia chief who died last year while serving life imprisonment.

According to Antoci, it was rare that this land was actually farmed. A Mafia family could claim about 𠫁m a year in EU subsidies on 1,000 hectares, while leasing it for as little as �,000. “With profit margins as high as 2,000 per cent, with no risk, why sell drugs or carry out robberies when you can just wait for the cheque to arrive in the post?” he says by telephone from his home in the coastal village of Santo Stefano di Camastra, where he lives under armed guard.


How the mafia got to our food

Giuseppe Antoci had been warned more than once. “You will end with your throat cut,” read one note, composed entirely of individual letters clipped from newspapers in ransom-note style.

In May 2016, they came. Antoci, then president of the Nebrodi National Park, a protected area in Sicily’s north-east, was returning home from a meeting accompanied by his police escort. As his armour-plated Lancia Thesis rounded a bend in the Miraglia forest, he saw the mountain road was strewn with rocks, forcing the driver to stop.

First, two hitmen fired at the vehicle’s wheels to immobilise it. Then a shootout ensued. The would-be assassins eventually fled but Antoci recalls his terror that night: “The police tried to move me to another car but, in my fear, I didn’t recognise them. I thought I was being kidnapped. I thought of my family and prayed they were safe.”

Antoci believes the attempted hit was ordered by the Sicilian Mafia in retaliation for new regulations blocking millions of euros in EU subsidies on farmland from reaching it. It was the most serious Mafia attack on a state representative since the high-profile assassinations of several Italian prosecutors in the 1990s.

Siphoning off farm subsidies does not carry the same dubious “glamour” as the racketeering or drug running usually associated with the Mafia. But it has become a highly lucrative income stream for Italy’s organised-crime syndicates. Their forays into farming do not end there: in recent years, they have infiltrated the entire food chain, according to a Rome-based think-tank, the Observatory of Crime in Agriculture and the Food Chain.

&aposWith profit margins as high as 2,000 per cent, why sell drugs or carry out robberies?&apos Giuseppe Antoci, former president of the Nebrodi National Park © Valentino Bellini

Taking advantage of the decade-long economic crisis in Italy, the Mafia has bought up cheap farmland, livestock, markets and restaurants, laundering its money through what is one of the country’s leading industries. The value of the so-called agromafia business has almost doubled from �.5bn in 2011 to more than �n in 2018 (growing at an average of 10 per cent a year), according to the Observatory.

It now accounts for 15 per cent of total estimated Mafia turnover. “The reliability of the business in the crisis brought about the interest of the Mafia,” says Stefano Masini, a law professor at the Observatory. “It’s profitable and not dangerous like the drug market. They are now inserted in the industry from field to fork.”

From the terroirs of Chianti to the ancient olive groves of Puglia, Italy’s Mafia organisations have put down roots throughout the food and agriculture sector, from production to packaging, transport and distribution. Police data indicate that all of Italy’s major crime syndicates — the Neapolitan Camorra, the Sicilian Cosa Nostra and the ’Ndrangheta from the region of Calabria — invest in farming.

According to Professor Umberto Santino, a Mafia historian from Palermo, the Mob’s interests in the agricultural industry now extend to “human trafficking, money laundering, extortion, loan sharking, illegal breeding, backstreet butchering and baking and the burial of toxic waste on farmland. It’s an integrated cycle, a full package of systematic interactions.”

Rugged terrain in the Nebrodi National Park: in 2013, many of the park’s leases were found to be under Mafia control © Valentino Bellini

In a globalised industry, the Mafia’s reach extends beyond Italy’s borders, affecting the path of food to dinner tables around the world. Often the methods remain old-school: bribery, intimidation, counterfeiting and extortion. But the cartels have also developed white-collar expertise in infiltrating the local councils and committees that award tenders and subsidies.

Under the scheme uncovered by Antoci, Mafiosi and their affiliates leased hundreds of thousands of hectares of public land in the Nebrodi Park from the state, using intimidation to scare away rival bids. When Antoci took over in 2013 he found 80 per cent of the park’s leases were under Mafia control, including a lease to Gaetano Riina, brother of Salvatore “Toto” Riina, also known as “The Beast”, the Sicilian Mafia chief who died last year while serving life imprisonment.

According to Antoci, it was rare that this land was actually farmed. A Mafia family could claim about 𠫁m a year in EU subsidies on 1,000 hectares, while leasing it for as little as �,000. “With profit margins as high as 2,000 per cent, with no risk, why sell drugs or carry out robberies when you can just wait for the cheque to arrive in the post?” he says by telephone from his home in the coastal village of Santo Stefano di Camastra, where he lives under armed guard.


How the mafia got to our food

Giuseppe Antoci had been warned more than once. “You will end with your throat cut,” read one note, composed entirely of individual letters clipped from newspapers in ransom-note style.

In May 2016, they came. Antoci, then president of the Nebrodi National Park, a protected area in Sicily’s north-east, was returning home from a meeting accompanied by his police escort. As his armour-plated Lancia Thesis rounded a bend in the Miraglia forest, he saw the mountain road was strewn with rocks, forcing the driver to stop.

First, two hitmen fired at the vehicle’s wheels to immobilise it. Then a shootout ensued. The would-be assassins eventually fled but Antoci recalls his terror that night: “The police tried to move me to another car but, in my fear, I didn’t recognise them. I thought I was being kidnapped. I thought of my family and prayed they were safe.”

Antoci believes the attempted hit was ordered by the Sicilian Mafia in retaliation for new regulations blocking millions of euros in EU subsidies on farmland from reaching it. It was the most serious Mafia attack on a state representative since the high-profile assassinations of several Italian prosecutors in the 1990s.

Siphoning off farm subsidies does not carry the same dubious “glamour” as the racketeering or drug running usually associated with the Mafia. But it has become a highly lucrative income stream for Italy’s organised-crime syndicates. Their forays into farming do not end there: in recent years, they have infiltrated the entire food chain, according to a Rome-based think-tank, the Observatory of Crime in Agriculture and the Food Chain.

&aposWith profit margins as high as 2,000 per cent, why sell drugs or carry out robberies?&apos Giuseppe Antoci, former president of the Nebrodi National Park © Valentino Bellini

Taking advantage of the decade-long economic crisis in Italy, the Mafia has bought up cheap farmland, livestock, markets and restaurants, laundering its money through what is one of the country’s leading industries. The value of the so-called agromafia business has almost doubled from �.5bn in 2011 to more than �n in 2018 (growing at an average of 10 per cent a year), according to the Observatory.

It now accounts for 15 per cent of total estimated Mafia turnover. “The reliability of the business in the crisis brought about the interest of the Mafia,” says Stefano Masini, a law professor at the Observatory. “It’s profitable and not dangerous like the drug market. They are now inserted in the industry from field to fork.”

From the terroirs of Chianti to the ancient olive groves of Puglia, Italy’s Mafia organisations have put down roots throughout the food and agriculture sector, from production to packaging, transport and distribution. Police data indicate that all of Italy’s major crime syndicates — the Neapolitan Camorra, the Sicilian Cosa Nostra and the ’Ndrangheta from the region of Calabria — invest in farming.

According to Professor Umberto Santino, a Mafia historian from Palermo, the Mob’s interests in the agricultural industry now extend to “human trafficking, money laundering, extortion, loan sharking, illegal breeding, backstreet butchering and baking and the burial of toxic waste on farmland. It’s an integrated cycle, a full package of systematic interactions.”

Rugged terrain in the Nebrodi National Park: in 2013, many of the park’s leases were found to be under Mafia control © Valentino Bellini

In a globalised industry, the Mafia’s reach extends beyond Italy’s borders, affecting the path of food to dinner tables around the world. Often the methods remain old-school: bribery, intimidation, counterfeiting and extortion. But the cartels have also developed white-collar expertise in infiltrating the local councils and committees that award tenders and subsidies.

Under the scheme uncovered by Antoci, Mafiosi and their affiliates leased hundreds of thousands of hectares of public land in the Nebrodi Park from the state, using intimidation to scare away rival bids. When Antoci took over in 2013 he found 80 per cent of the park’s leases were under Mafia control, including a lease to Gaetano Riina, brother of Salvatore “Toto” Riina, also known as “The Beast”, the Sicilian Mafia chief who died last year while serving life imprisonment.

According to Antoci, it was rare that this land was actually farmed. A Mafia family could claim about 𠫁m a year in EU subsidies on 1,000 hectares, while leasing it for as little as �,000. “With profit margins as high as 2,000 per cent, with no risk, why sell drugs or carry out robberies when you can just wait for the cheque to arrive in the post?” he says by telephone from his home in the coastal village of Santo Stefano di Camastra, where he lives under armed guard.


How the mafia got to our food

Giuseppe Antoci had been warned more than once. “You will end with your throat cut,” read one note, composed entirely of individual letters clipped from newspapers in ransom-note style.

In May 2016, they came. Antoci, then president of the Nebrodi National Park, a protected area in Sicily’s north-east, was returning home from a meeting accompanied by his police escort. As his armour-plated Lancia Thesis rounded a bend in the Miraglia forest, he saw the mountain road was strewn with rocks, forcing the driver to stop.

First, two hitmen fired at the vehicle’s wheels to immobilise it. Then a shootout ensued. The would-be assassins eventually fled but Antoci recalls his terror that night: “The police tried to move me to another car but, in my fear, I didn’t recognise them. I thought I was being kidnapped. I thought of my family and prayed they were safe.”

Antoci believes the attempted hit was ordered by the Sicilian Mafia in retaliation for new regulations blocking millions of euros in EU subsidies on farmland from reaching it. It was the most serious Mafia attack on a state representative since the high-profile assassinations of several Italian prosecutors in the 1990s.

Siphoning off farm subsidies does not carry the same dubious “glamour” as the racketeering or drug running usually associated with the Mafia. But it has become a highly lucrative income stream for Italy’s organised-crime syndicates. Their forays into farming do not end there: in recent years, they have infiltrated the entire food chain, according to a Rome-based think-tank, the Observatory of Crime in Agriculture and the Food Chain.

&aposWith profit margins as high as 2,000 per cent, why sell drugs or carry out robberies?&apos Giuseppe Antoci, former president of the Nebrodi National Park © Valentino Bellini

Taking advantage of the decade-long economic crisis in Italy, the Mafia has bought up cheap farmland, livestock, markets and restaurants, laundering its money through what is one of the country’s leading industries. The value of the so-called agromafia business has almost doubled from �.5bn in 2011 to more than �n in 2018 (growing at an average of 10 per cent a year), according to the Observatory.

It now accounts for 15 per cent of total estimated Mafia turnover. “The reliability of the business in the crisis brought about the interest of the Mafia,” says Stefano Masini, a law professor at the Observatory. “It’s profitable and not dangerous like the drug market. They are now inserted in the industry from field to fork.”

From the terroirs of Chianti to the ancient olive groves of Puglia, Italy’s Mafia organisations have put down roots throughout the food and agriculture sector, from production to packaging, transport and distribution. Police data indicate that all of Italy’s major crime syndicates — the Neapolitan Camorra, the Sicilian Cosa Nostra and the ’Ndrangheta from the region of Calabria — invest in farming.

According to Professor Umberto Santino, a Mafia historian from Palermo, the Mob’s interests in the agricultural industry now extend to “human trafficking, money laundering, extortion, loan sharking, illegal breeding, backstreet butchering and baking and the burial of toxic waste on farmland. It’s an integrated cycle, a full package of systematic interactions.”

Rugged terrain in the Nebrodi National Park: in 2013, many of the park’s leases were found to be under Mafia control © Valentino Bellini

In a globalised industry, the Mafia’s reach extends beyond Italy’s borders, affecting the path of food to dinner tables around the world. Often the methods remain old-school: bribery, intimidation, counterfeiting and extortion. But the cartels have also developed white-collar expertise in infiltrating the local councils and committees that award tenders and subsidies.

Under the scheme uncovered by Antoci, Mafiosi and their affiliates leased hundreds of thousands of hectares of public land in the Nebrodi Park from the state, using intimidation to scare away rival bids. When Antoci took over in 2013 he found 80 per cent of the park’s leases were under Mafia control, including a lease to Gaetano Riina, brother of Salvatore “Toto” Riina, also known as “The Beast”, the Sicilian Mafia chief who died last year while serving life imprisonment.

According to Antoci, it was rare that this land was actually farmed. A Mafia family could claim about 𠫁m a year in EU subsidies on 1,000 hectares, while leasing it for as little as �,000. “With profit margins as high as 2,000 per cent, with no risk, why sell drugs or carry out robberies when you can just wait for the cheque to arrive in the post?” he says by telephone from his home in the coastal village of Santo Stefano di Camastra, where he lives under armed guard.


How the mafia got to our food

Giuseppe Antoci had been warned more than once. “You will end with your throat cut,” read one note, composed entirely of individual letters clipped from newspapers in ransom-note style.

In May 2016, they came. Antoci, then president of the Nebrodi National Park, a protected area in Sicily’s north-east, was returning home from a meeting accompanied by his police escort. As his armour-plated Lancia Thesis rounded a bend in the Miraglia forest, he saw the mountain road was strewn with rocks, forcing the driver to stop.

First, two hitmen fired at the vehicle’s wheels to immobilise it. Then a shootout ensued. The would-be assassins eventually fled but Antoci recalls his terror that night: “The police tried to move me to another car but, in my fear, I didn’t recognise them. I thought I was being kidnapped. I thought of my family and prayed they were safe.”

Antoci believes the attempted hit was ordered by the Sicilian Mafia in retaliation for new regulations blocking millions of euros in EU subsidies on farmland from reaching it. It was the most serious Mafia attack on a state representative since the high-profile assassinations of several Italian prosecutors in the 1990s.

Siphoning off farm subsidies does not carry the same dubious “glamour” as the racketeering or drug running usually associated with the Mafia. But it has become a highly lucrative income stream for Italy’s organised-crime syndicates. Their forays into farming do not end there: in recent years, they have infiltrated the entire food chain, according to a Rome-based think-tank, the Observatory of Crime in Agriculture and the Food Chain.

&aposWith profit margins as high as 2,000 per cent, why sell drugs or carry out robberies?&apos Giuseppe Antoci, former president of the Nebrodi National Park © Valentino Bellini

Taking advantage of the decade-long economic crisis in Italy, the Mafia has bought up cheap farmland, livestock, markets and restaurants, laundering its money through what is one of the country’s leading industries. The value of the so-called agromafia business has almost doubled from �.5bn in 2011 to more than �n in 2018 (growing at an average of 10 per cent a year), according to the Observatory.

It now accounts for 15 per cent of total estimated Mafia turnover. “The reliability of the business in the crisis brought about the interest of the Mafia,” says Stefano Masini, a law professor at the Observatory. “It’s profitable and not dangerous like the drug market. They are now inserted in the industry from field to fork.”

From the terroirs of Chianti to the ancient olive groves of Puglia, Italy’s Mafia organisations have put down roots throughout the food and agriculture sector, from production to packaging, transport and distribution. Police data indicate that all of Italy’s major crime syndicates — the Neapolitan Camorra, the Sicilian Cosa Nostra and the ’Ndrangheta from the region of Calabria — invest in farming.

According to Professor Umberto Santino, a Mafia historian from Palermo, the Mob’s interests in the agricultural industry now extend to “human trafficking, money laundering, extortion, loan sharking, illegal breeding, backstreet butchering and baking and the burial of toxic waste on farmland. It’s an integrated cycle, a full package of systematic interactions.”

Rugged terrain in the Nebrodi National Park: in 2013, many of the park’s leases were found to be under Mafia control © Valentino Bellini

In a globalised industry, the Mafia’s reach extends beyond Italy’s borders, affecting the path of food to dinner tables around the world. Often the methods remain old-school: bribery, intimidation, counterfeiting and extortion. But the cartels have also developed white-collar expertise in infiltrating the local councils and committees that award tenders and subsidies.

Under the scheme uncovered by Antoci, Mafiosi and their affiliates leased hundreds of thousands of hectares of public land in the Nebrodi Park from the state, using intimidation to scare away rival bids. When Antoci took over in 2013 he found 80 per cent of the park’s leases were under Mafia control, including a lease to Gaetano Riina, brother of Salvatore “Toto” Riina, also known as “The Beast”, the Sicilian Mafia chief who died last year while serving life imprisonment.

According to Antoci, it was rare that this land was actually farmed. A Mafia family could claim about 𠫁m a year in EU subsidies on 1,000 hectares, while leasing it for as little as �,000. “With profit margins as high as 2,000 per cent, with no risk, why sell drugs or carry out robberies when you can just wait for the cheque to arrive in the post?” he says by telephone from his home in the coastal village of Santo Stefano di Camastra, where he lives under armed guard.


How the mafia got to our food

Giuseppe Antoci had been warned more than once. “You will end with your throat cut,” read one note, composed entirely of individual letters clipped from newspapers in ransom-note style.

In May 2016, they came. Antoci, then president of the Nebrodi National Park, a protected area in Sicily’s north-east, was returning home from a meeting accompanied by his police escort. As his armour-plated Lancia Thesis rounded a bend in the Miraglia forest, he saw the mountain road was strewn with rocks, forcing the driver to stop.

First, two hitmen fired at the vehicle’s wheels to immobilise it. Then a shootout ensued. The would-be assassins eventually fled but Antoci recalls his terror that night: “The police tried to move me to another car but, in my fear, I didn’t recognise them. I thought I was being kidnapped. I thought of my family and prayed they were safe.”

Antoci believes the attempted hit was ordered by the Sicilian Mafia in retaliation for new regulations blocking millions of euros in EU subsidies on farmland from reaching it. It was the most serious Mafia attack on a state representative since the high-profile assassinations of several Italian prosecutors in the 1990s.

Siphoning off farm subsidies does not carry the same dubious “glamour” as the racketeering or drug running usually associated with the Mafia. But it has become a highly lucrative income stream for Italy’s organised-crime syndicates. Their forays into farming do not end there: in recent years, they have infiltrated the entire food chain, according to a Rome-based think-tank, the Observatory of Crime in Agriculture and the Food Chain.

&aposWith profit margins as high as 2,000 per cent, why sell drugs or carry out robberies?&apos Giuseppe Antoci, former president of the Nebrodi National Park © Valentino Bellini

Taking advantage of the decade-long economic crisis in Italy, the Mafia has bought up cheap farmland, livestock, markets and restaurants, laundering its money through what is one of the country’s leading industries. The value of the so-called agromafia business has almost doubled from �.5bn in 2011 to more than �n in 2018 (growing at an average of 10 per cent a year), according to the Observatory.

It now accounts for 15 per cent of total estimated Mafia turnover. “The reliability of the business in the crisis brought about the interest of the Mafia,” says Stefano Masini, a law professor at the Observatory. “It’s profitable and not dangerous like the drug market. They are now inserted in the industry from field to fork.”

From the terroirs of Chianti to the ancient olive groves of Puglia, Italy’s Mafia organisations have put down roots throughout the food and agriculture sector, from production to packaging, transport and distribution. Police data indicate that all of Italy’s major crime syndicates — the Neapolitan Camorra, the Sicilian Cosa Nostra and the ’Ndrangheta from the region of Calabria — invest in farming.

According to Professor Umberto Santino, a Mafia historian from Palermo, the Mob’s interests in the agricultural industry now extend to “human trafficking, money laundering, extortion, loan sharking, illegal breeding, backstreet butchering and baking and the burial of toxic waste on farmland. It’s an integrated cycle, a full package of systematic interactions.”

Rugged terrain in the Nebrodi National Park: in 2013, many of the park’s leases were found to be under Mafia control © Valentino Bellini

In a globalised industry, the Mafia’s reach extends beyond Italy’s borders, affecting the path of food to dinner tables around the world. Often the methods remain old-school: bribery, intimidation, counterfeiting and extortion. But the cartels have also developed white-collar expertise in infiltrating the local councils and committees that award tenders and subsidies.

Under the scheme uncovered by Antoci, Mafiosi and their affiliates leased hundreds of thousands of hectares of public land in the Nebrodi Park from the state, using intimidation to scare away rival bids. When Antoci took over in 2013 he found 80 per cent of the park’s leases were under Mafia control, including a lease to Gaetano Riina, brother of Salvatore “Toto” Riina, also known as “The Beast”, the Sicilian Mafia chief who died last year while serving life imprisonment.

According to Antoci, it was rare that this land was actually farmed. A Mafia family could claim about 𠫁m a year in EU subsidies on 1,000 hectares, while leasing it for as little as �,000. “With profit margins as high as 2,000 per cent, with no risk, why sell drugs or carry out robberies when you can just wait for the cheque to arrive in the post?” he says by telephone from his home in the coastal village of Santo Stefano di Camastra, where he lives under armed guard.


How the mafia got to our food

Giuseppe Antoci had been warned more than once. “You will end with your throat cut,” read one note, composed entirely of individual letters clipped from newspapers in ransom-note style.

In May 2016, they came. Antoci, then president of the Nebrodi National Park, a protected area in Sicily’s north-east, was returning home from a meeting accompanied by his police escort. As his armour-plated Lancia Thesis rounded a bend in the Miraglia forest, he saw the mountain road was strewn with rocks, forcing the driver to stop.

First, two hitmen fired at the vehicle’s wheels to immobilise it. Then a shootout ensued. The would-be assassins eventually fled but Antoci recalls his terror that night: “The police tried to move me to another car but, in my fear, I didn’t recognise them. I thought I was being kidnapped. I thought of my family and prayed they were safe.”

Antoci believes the attempted hit was ordered by the Sicilian Mafia in retaliation for new regulations blocking millions of euros in EU subsidies on farmland from reaching it. It was the most serious Mafia attack on a state representative since the high-profile assassinations of several Italian prosecutors in the 1990s.

Siphoning off farm subsidies does not carry the same dubious “glamour” as the racketeering or drug running usually associated with the Mafia. But it has become a highly lucrative income stream for Italy’s organised-crime syndicates. Their forays into farming do not end there: in recent years, they have infiltrated the entire food chain, according to a Rome-based think-tank, the Observatory of Crime in Agriculture and the Food Chain.

&aposWith profit margins as high as 2,000 per cent, why sell drugs or carry out robberies?&apos Giuseppe Antoci, former president of the Nebrodi National Park © Valentino Bellini

Taking advantage of the decade-long economic crisis in Italy, the Mafia has bought up cheap farmland, livestock, markets and restaurants, laundering its money through what is one of the country’s leading industries. The value of the so-called agromafia business has almost doubled from �.5bn in 2011 to more than �n in 2018 (growing at an average of 10 per cent a year), according to the Observatory.

It now accounts for 15 per cent of total estimated Mafia turnover. “The reliability of the business in the crisis brought about the interest of the Mafia,” says Stefano Masini, a law professor at the Observatory. “It’s profitable and not dangerous like the drug market. They are now inserted in the industry from field to fork.”

From the terroirs of Chianti to the ancient olive groves of Puglia, Italy’s Mafia organisations have put down roots throughout the food and agriculture sector, from production to packaging, transport and distribution. Police data indicate that all of Italy’s major crime syndicates — the Neapolitan Camorra, the Sicilian Cosa Nostra and the ’Ndrangheta from the region of Calabria — invest in farming.

According to Professor Umberto Santino, a Mafia historian from Palermo, the Mob’s interests in the agricultural industry now extend to “human trafficking, money laundering, extortion, loan sharking, illegal breeding, backstreet butchering and baking and the burial of toxic waste on farmland. It’s an integrated cycle, a full package of systematic interactions.”

Rugged terrain in the Nebrodi National Park: in 2013, many of the park’s leases were found to be under Mafia control © Valentino Bellini

In a globalised industry, the Mafia’s reach extends beyond Italy’s borders, affecting the path of food to dinner tables around the world. Often the methods remain old-school: bribery, intimidation, counterfeiting and extortion. But the cartels have also developed white-collar expertise in infiltrating the local councils and committees that award tenders and subsidies.

Under the scheme uncovered by Antoci, Mafiosi and their affiliates leased hundreds of thousands of hectares of public land in the Nebrodi Park from the state, using intimidation to scare away rival bids. When Antoci took over in 2013 he found 80 per cent of the park’s leases were under Mafia control, including a lease to Gaetano Riina, brother of Salvatore “Toto” Riina, also known as “The Beast”, the Sicilian Mafia chief who died last year while serving life imprisonment.

According to Antoci, it was rare that this land was actually farmed. A Mafia family could claim about 𠫁m a year in EU subsidies on 1,000 hectares, while leasing it for as little as �,000. “With profit margins as high as 2,000 per cent, with no risk, why sell drugs or carry out robberies when you can just wait for the cheque to arrive in the post?” he says by telephone from his home in the coastal village of Santo Stefano di Camastra, where he lives under armed guard.


How the mafia got to our food

Giuseppe Antoci had been warned more than once. “You will end with your throat cut,” read one note, composed entirely of individual letters clipped from newspapers in ransom-note style.

In May 2016, they came. Antoci, then president of the Nebrodi National Park, a protected area in Sicily’s north-east, was returning home from a meeting accompanied by his police escort. As his armour-plated Lancia Thesis rounded a bend in the Miraglia forest, he saw the mountain road was strewn with rocks, forcing the driver to stop.

First, two hitmen fired at the vehicle’s wheels to immobilise it. Then a shootout ensued. The would-be assassins eventually fled but Antoci recalls his terror that night: “The police tried to move me to another car but, in my fear, I didn’t recognise them. I thought I was being kidnapped. I thought of my family and prayed they were safe.”

Antoci believes the attempted hit was ordered by the Sicilian Mafia in retaliation for new regulations blocking millions of euros in EU subsidies on farmland from reaching it. It was the most serious Mafia attack on a state representative since the high-profile assassinations of several Italian prosecutors in the 1990s.

Siphoning off farm subsidies does not carry the same dubious “glamour” as the racketeering or drug running usually associated with the Mafia. But it has become a highly lucrative income stream for Italy’s organised-crime syndicates. Their forays into farming do not end there: in recent years, they have infiltrated the entire food chain, according to a Rome-based think-tank, the Observatory of Crime in Agriculture and the Food Chain.

&aposWith profit margins as high as 2,000 per cent, why sell drugs or carry out robberies?&apos Giuseppe Antoci, former president of the Nebrodi National Park © Valentino Bellini

Taking advantage of the decade-long economic crisis in Italy, the Mafia has bought up cheap farmland, livestock, markets and restaurants, laundering its money through what is one of the country’s leading industries. The value of the so-called agromafia business has almost doubled from �.5bn in 2011 to more than �n in 2018 (growing at an average of 10 per cent a year), according to the Observatory.

It now accounts for 15 per cent of total estimated Mafia turnover. “The reliability of the business in the crisis brought about the interest of the Mafia,” says Stefano Masini, a law professor at the Observatory. “It’s profitable and not dangerous like the drug market. They are now inserted in the industry from field to fork.”

From the terroirs of Chianti to the ancient olive groves of Puglia, Italy’s Mafia organisations have put down roots throughout the food and agriculture sector, from production to packaging, transport and distribution. Police data indicate that all of Italy’s major crime syndicates — the Neapolitan Camorra, the Sicilian Cosa Nostra and the ’Ndrangheta from the region of Calabria — invest in farming.

According to Professor Umberto Santino, a Mafia historian from Palermo, the Mob’s interests in the agricultural industry now extend to “human trafficking, money laundering, extortion, loan sharking, illegal breeding, backstreet butchering and baking and the burial of toxic waste on farmland. It’s an integrated cycle, a full package of systematic interactions.”

Rugged terrain in the Nebrodi National Park: in 2013, many of the park’s leases were found to be under Mafia control © Valentino Bellini

In a globalised industry, the Mafia’s reach extends beyond Italy’s borders, affecting the path of food to dinner tables around the world. Often the methods remain old-school: bribery, intimidation, counterfeiting and extortion. But the cartels have also developed white-collar expertise in infiltrating the local councils and committees that award tenders and subsidies.

Under the scheme uncovered by Antoci, Mafiosi and their affiliates leased hundreds of thousands of hectares of public land in the Nebrodi Park from the state, using intimidation to scare away rival bids. When Antoci took over in 2013 he found 80 per cent of the park’s leases were under Mafia control, including a lease to Gaetano Riina, brother of Salvatore “Toto” Riina, also known as “The Beast”, the Sicilian Mafia chief who died last year while serving life imprisonment.

According to Antoci, it was rare that this land was actually farmed. A Mafia family could claim about 𠫁m a year in EU subsidies on 1,000 hectares, while leasing it for as little as �,000. “With profit margins as high as 2,000 per cent, with no risk, why sell drugs or carry out robberies when you can just wait for the cheque to arrive in the post?” he says by telephone from his home in the coastal village of Santo Stefano di Camastra, where he lives under armed guard.



Comments:

  1. Leone

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