The Italian organized crime group stole millions of funds that were intended for migrants, police revealed. On Monday morning dozens of people, including a priest, were arrested in connection with the largest migrant center scheme in Italy.
More than 500 police officers busted 68 people, reportedly part of the “Arena” clan, which it turned out were controlling the country’s largest migrant center responsible for helping new arrivals of migrants. The clan, part of the powerful Calabria-based Ndrangheta crime syndicate, reportedly pocketed $35 million that came from EU funding.
Police say the suspects “controlled, for profit, the management of the reception centre” at Isola di Capo Rizzuto with over 1500 migrants at a time, and they were in charge of the migrant hub for over a decade. They were charged with “extortion, carrying illegal weapons, fraud, embezzlement to the detriment of the state, (and) theft,” investigation revealed.
Among those arrested were a local priest and the head of the Catholic Misericordia association, Leonardo Sacco, who officially runs the center. Police believe that Sacco was the one who was responsible for the clan winning the contracts for supplying catering services to the center, which made it possible to receive EU funds.
Two years ago Espresso magazine published a report claiming that the center’s funds were mishandled while migrants who lived there starved to death. There were also complaints since then that the number of the migrants living in the center was inflated in order to get more funding.
According to Reuters, Italy gave the center over $17 million a year to house and feed the migrants.
There are reportedly over 175,000 migrants living in centers like this across the country.