Dozens of people have been arrested, including an oil heiress and singer who was found with € 300,000 (£ 260,000) in cash when her Rolls-Royce was arrested in 2019, as Italian police disrupted a massive fraud fuel by mafia groups.
Police also seized nearly € 1 billion in assets related to mafia money laundering and tax evasion through petroleum products in a series of scams known as the “Operation PetrolMafias”.
Allegedly led by different clans within the Naples ‘Camorra and Calabrian’ Ndrangheta unions, the various projects highlighted the “harmful synergy between mafias and white-collar criminals,” prosecutors said in a statement.
More than 173 million euros have been laundered in connection with various oil-related projects which police have been investigating since 2015, prosecutors in Naples, Rome and two provinces of Calabria have said at Italian tip. where the criminal organization “ Ndrangheta ” is firmly anchored.
More than 1,000 police officers took part in the operation early Thursday, seizing property, businesses and cash worth nearly a billion euros.
The investigation revealed “the gigantic convergence” of different mafia groups who have come together to import and illegally market petroleum products while laundering the products through pioneers and front companies.
Through fraudulent imports or transport of petroleum products, suspects were able to avoid taxes, while a series of paper companies issuing bogus payments for non-existent supplies allowed the clans to launder money from their activities. illegal.
As part of an Ndrangheta diesel fuel program involving 12 companies, five fuel depots and 37 service stations, fuel that had escaped excise duty and value added tax was brought to the market. In just one year, from 2018 to 2019, suspects evaded 5.8 million euros in excise duties.
In Naples and Rome, police have targeted the Moccia clan, described as one of Italy’s “most powerful and dangerous” groups within the Naples-based Camorra crime syndicate. The clan is adept at liaising with key figures in the public and private sectors to help invest the illegally earned proceeds into the legal economy, prosecutors said.
In another shot, the clan reportedly teamed up with a former singer and widow of an oil entrepreneur, Anna Bettozzi, whose inherited business was in trouble. Injections of laundered cash from Camorra and shell companies providing bogus invoices have helped boost its oil business from € 9 million to € 370 million in three years, prosecutors said.
Bettozzi, among those arrested on Thursday, was found with € 300,000 in cash when she was arrested in 2019 in a Rolls-Royce on her way to the Cannes film festival, they said. Another 1.4 million euros in cash was later seized at his Milan hotel.
The investigation into the oil fraud schemes of the Ndrangheta groups is linked to a massive operation against the mafia group in December 2019 which resulted in the arrest of more than 300 people.
Most of those apprehended in the largest police operation in years against clans in the Vibo Valentia region of Calabria now face judges in a “maxi-trial” to answer for crimes such as as murder, drug trafficking, extortion, money laundering and abuse of power.