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When the Mafia serves coffee in the courthouse

The 31 counts in opposition to the crew arrested final week in the southern Italian metropolis of Potenza included mafia affiliation, homicide and extortion. But it was an allegation in depend No. 19 that was maybe the most unimaginable: The suspects had been accused of working a restaurant proper inside the courthouse.

Every day for greater than three years, prosecutors and investigators constructing legal circumstances sipped cappuccino and ate eggplant Parmesan at the courthouse eatery, which the authorities now say was managed by a robust clan of mobsters.

“They were in our home,” stated Francesco Curcio, the chief prosecutor in Potenza.

The clan, led by an area household, operated the cafe as a entrance, in response to court docket paperwork, to “potentially launder money and have a base inside the most important justice court in the district to acquire information.”

Hidden cameras put in by investigators captured the cafe’s workers bowing in respect to the boss of the household and consoling each other when his right-hand man was arrested on drug trafficking fees, in response to prosecutors and court docket paperwork.

The revelations in Potenza, capital of the southern area of Basilicata, have fueled issues that legal organizations are getting greater and bolder. “Something is clearly not working in the anti-Mafia controls,” Curcio stated at a information convention.

The prosecution group’s determination to maintain the three-year investigation secret from colleagues has additionally touched a uncooked nerve inside the courthouse. Curcio acknowledged that it was “a difficult situation from a human perspective.”

Prosecutors who knew the cafe was underneath investigation would seize a coffee and chat with workers to maintain up appearances. But most didn’t know.

That meant investigative secrets and techniques in different circumstances might have been spilled over espresso, the prosecution group acknowledged. But, they stated, warning courthouse colleagues would have jeopardized the complete inquiry. The group stated that it had simply needed to hope fellow prosecutors had been discreet in what they stated at the cafe.

Some legal professionals had been lower than understanding.

“So many police, prosecutors, carabinieri went up to the bar to have coffee,” stated Davide Pennacchio, an area lawyer. “And who knows how many things they could have said?”

It was truly an episode involving Pennacchio that helped set off the inquiry.

Pennacchio and a accomplice had competed for the similar courthouse cafe contract, submitting an attraction after they misplaced. He then obtained, in a hall of the courthouse, a warning from a clan member to again off, in response to court docket paperwork.

Investigators who adopted up started to suspect that the new bar possession was a entrance. The police put in bugs and cameras in the cafe and began wiretapping suspects, getting a clearer image of the household’s actions. Among different issues, they stated, the clan managed a gaming cafe and was behind a jewellery retailer theft in the metropolis.

Prosecutors stated that they let the mobsters suppose they had been outsmarting the authorities.

“If a criminal from another group goes there and sees they are managing the courthouse cafe,” Curcio stated, “they must think, ‘Man these guys are smart.’ ”

He stated that “criminal prestige” was in all probability the predominant motive that the household had sought management of the cafe.

Basilio Pitasi, a lawyer for Saverio Riviezzi, who the prosecutors declare is the clan’s boss, stated that the household was not a Mafia group. He added that Riviezzi had already been cleared of such allegations in the previous.

Pitasi stated that the so-called Riviezzi clan — which authorities say ran the cafe — didn’t management any territory or function “diffused intimidation,” two parts that he stated had been basic to defining a mafia group.

Reverend Marcello Cozzi, president of a suppose tank, the Center for Studies and Research on the South, stated that the Mafia households in Basilicata, together with the Riviezzis, are “young compared to other Mafias in Italy that go back over 150 years.”

“But,” he added “they kill, extort and infiltrate the economy.”

Pennacchio, the lawyer who misplaced out on the cafe contract, stated {that a} buddy had discovered yet one more downside, with the eatery’s roast hen: “Hard as plastic,” he stated.

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