Italian Police Say They Broke Up Major Mob Clan

By: Nicole Winfield - AP Writer
By: Nicole Winfield - AP Writer

Italian police have broken up a major mafia clan, arresting 74 people and seizing businesses, land, race horses and a London-based online betting company, officials said Tuesday.

Local politicians and businessmen in the southern Italian city
of Bari were among those implicated as part of a three-year
operation, called "Domino," for collaborating with the Parisi
clan, police said.

Lt. Col. Salvatore Russo, the police official in charge of the
operation, said 74 people were arrested, while an additional nine
warrants were issued for suspects already jailed on separate
charges.

The 48-year-old head of the clan, Savino Parisi, was arrested
overnight along with his closest associates. They are accused of
attempted murder, drug trafficking, loan-sharking, interfering with
the bidding process for public contracts and money laundering.

The confiscated assets total around euro220 million ($330 million),
officials said.

The operation "showed the true face of criminality" in the
southern Puglia region, national anti-Mafia prosecutor Piero Grasso
said.

"It's a criminality that is projected in investments, in
businesses that suck part of the resources of this land and invests
it abroad," Grasso said at a news conference.

Also on Tuesday, 11 other arrests were made in a separate,
Sicily-based police operation.

Parisi, whose first wealth stemmed from an Italy-Serbian drug
trafficking ring, had recently been freed after serving a 14-year
prison sentence and immediately restarted his criminal
organization, police said.

With his associates, he "acquired full control of the territory
and accumulated enormous wealth through crimes of every genre: from
stealing trucks to kidnapping and loan-sharking with interest rates
up to 300 percent," police said.

The police statement said the former deputy mayor of the small
city of Valenzano as well as the city assessor collaborated with
Parisi, especially in his efforts to launder money through the
construction of a euro30 million ($45 million) university building for
3,500 students.

In addition, the Parisi clan successfully got a friendly
businessman elected to the city council "to intervene whenever
necessary," police said.

The assets seized included the sporting goods empire
"Sport&More" as well as the London-based Paradise Bet, described
by police as one of the most important British online betting
sites.

The arrests came as police cracked down on two other organized
crime groups elsewhere in southern Italy.

In Palermo, Sicily, police issued arrest warrants for 11 people
accused of helping longtime Cosa Nostra fugitive Salvatore
Provenzano elude capture. Provenzano was ultimately arrested in
2006. One of his closest collaborators, identified by the Italian
news agency ANSA as Simone Castello, 60, was arrested near Madrid,
police said.

Separately in Naples, police seized euro20 million ($30 million) in
assets Tuesday, including a textile firm, land and apartments from
the Somma-La Marca Camorra crime clan, a statement said.


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