Police seized several resorts along the southern coast of Italy on Tuesday. The 17 seaside establishments are allegedly connected to a money laundering operation with mafia ties.
In addition to the the seizure of property, arrest warrants were issued and carried out against 20 individuals in connection with an alleged scheme thought to be headed by two clans of the Calabrian Mafia.
According to The Irish Times, police seized the resorts as part of a lengthy investigation originating in 2008. Italian authorities reportedly established a connection between an Irish developer, two Spanish investors, and the Calabrian Mafia, known as ‘Ndrangheta.
Tuesday’s raids were carried out in Britain, Spain, and several parts of Italy with roughly $600 million in assets seized. The ‘Ndrangheta are believed to have invested illicit revenue in the properties.
Massimo Minniti, preliminary investigative judge in the case, explained:
“This scam is the result of the combination between massive influx of outside capital and, above all, the ability of criminal organizations to govern and ‘control’ the territory, thus guaranteeing the purchase of land and the development of projects.”
BBC News identified the developer from Ireland as Harry Fitzsimmons. Dan McGuinness, the man’s legal representative, denies that his client has any involvement in the money laundering operation. Although Italian authorities named Fitzsimmons as a suspect in the case, McGuinness claims the man was not among the individuals arrested on Tuesday.
“Mr Fitzsimmons totally refutes the allegations being made against him which are unfounded. He has not at any time been contacted by the police in either Italy or Northern Ireland and has been carrying out a legitimate business as a promoter of properties in south Italy.”
According to Sonia Alfano, spokeswoman for the European Anti-Mafia Commission, Harry Fitzsimmons could not be arrested because he is currently located in a country where the warrant is considered inapplicable:
“The problem is that the man cannot be arrested because he is no longer in Italy, he has gone to a country where the arrest warrant against him cannot be enforced.”
According to The Financial Times, following Tuesday’s crackdown on organized crime, Italy’s finance authorities released a statement regarding the alleged money laundering operation and how the ‘Ndrangheta clans are conducting business.
The statement reads in part:
“This is a new ‘Ndrangheta entrepreneurship, a new way of ‘doing Mafia’ where there is no shooting or killing, but where affiliation derives only from one matrix: money.”
The area of Italy where police seized the resorts is reportedly popular with international tourists.