Dozens of individuals are arrested, including an oil heiress and singer who was found with €300,000 (£260,000) in cash when her Rolls-Royce was pulled over in 2019, as Italian police disrupted a huge fuel fraud by mafia groups.
Police also seized nearly €1bn during a ssets linked to mafia concealment and tax fraud through oil products in a series of scams referred to as “Operation PetrolMafias”.Allegedly administered by different clans within the Naples’ Camorra and Calabrian ’Ndrangheta syndicates, the varied schemes underscored the “nefarious synergy between mafias and white-collar criminals”, prosecutors said during a statement.
More than €173m has been laundered in various oil-related schemes investigated by police since 2015, said prosecutors in Naples, Rome, and two provinces of Calabria at the tip of Italy’s boot, where the ’Ndrangheta crime organisation is firmly entrenched.
More than 1,000 cops participated within the operation early Thursday, seizing property, businesses and cash worth nearly €1bn.The probe uncovered “the gigantic convergence” of various mafia groups that came together to illegally import and market fuel products while laundering proceeds via front men and shell companies.Through fraudulently mislabelling imports or transports of petroleum products, suspects were ready to avoid taxes, while a series of paper companies issuing fake payments for nonexistent supplies allowed the clans to launder money from their illegal activities.
In one ’Ndrangheta diesel oil scheme involving 12 companies, five fuel depots and 37 gas stations, fuel that had evaded excise and VAT was placed on the market. In one year alone, from 2018 to 2019, suspects evaded paying €5.8m in excise .
In Naples and Rome, police targeted the Moccia clan, described together of Italy’s “most powerful and dangerous” groups within the Naples-based Camorra syndicate . The clan is skilled at liaising with leading public and personal sector figures to assist invest illegally gained proceeds within the legal economy, prosecutors said.
In another scheme, the clan allegedly teamed with a former singer and widow of an oil entrepreneur, Anna Bettozzi, whose inherited business was struggling. Laundered cash injections from the Camorra and shell companies supplying fake invoices helped grow her oil industry from €9m to €370m in three years, prosecutors said.
Bettozzi, among those arrested on Thursday, was found with €300,000 in cash when she was stopped in 2019 during a Rolls-Royce on her thanks to the Cannes festival , they said. Another €1.4m in cash was later seized from her Milan hotel.The investigation into the oil fraud schemes of the ’Ndrangheta groups is said to a huge operation against the mafia group in December 2019 that resulted within the arrest of quite 300 people.
Most of these apprehended within the biggest police operation in years against clans in Calabria’s Vibo Valentia area now face judges during a “maxi-trial” to account crimes including murder, drug traffic , extortion, concealment and abuse of office.
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