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 stopped in 2019, when Italian police disrupted a massive fuel fraud by groups. gangsters.
The police also seized nearly € 1 billion in assets related to mob money laundering and oil product tax fraud in a series of scams known as “Operation PetrolMafias.”
Allegedly carried out by different clans within the Naples Camorra and Calabrian Ndrangheta unions, the various schemes underscored the “dire synergy between mafias and white-collar criminals,” prosecutors said in a statement.
More than € 173 million has been laundered in various oil-related schemes investigated by police since 2015, prosecutors said in Naples, Rome and two Calabrian provinces at the tip of the boot of Italy, where the criminal organization ‘Ndrangheta is firmly rooted.
More than 1,000 police officers participated in the operation early Thursday, seizing properties, businesses and cash worth nearly € 1 billion.
The investigation uncovered “the gigantic convergence” of different gangster groups coming together to illegally import and trade fuel products while laundering the profits through front men and shell companies.
By fraudulently labeling imports or transportation of petroleum products, the suspects were able to avoid taxes, while a number of paper companies issuing false payments for nonexistent supplies allowed the clans to launder money from their illegal activities.
In a ‘Ndrangheta diesel fuel scheme involving 12 companies, five fuel depots and 37 filling stations, fuel that had evaded excise duty and value added tax was put on the market. In one year alone, from 2018 to 2019, the suspects evaded paying € 5.8 million in excise duty.
In Naples and Rome, police targeted the Moccia clan, described as one of Italy’s “most powerful and dangerous” groups within the Naples-based crime syndicate Camorra. The clan is trained to communicate with leading figures in the public and private sectors to help invest illegally earned profits in the legal economy, prosecutors said.
In another scheme, the clan allegedly partnered with a former singer and widow of an oil businessman, Anna Bettozzi, whose inherited business was in trouble. Launched cash injections from the Camorra and shell companies supplying false invoices helped grow its oil business from € 9 million to € 370 million in three years, prosecutors said.
Bettozzi, among those arrested Thursday, was found with 300,000 euros in cash when she was detained in 2019 in a Rolls-Royce on her way to the Cannes film festival, they said. A further 1.4 million euros in cash was later seized from his Milan hotel.
The investigation into the oil fraud schemes of the ‘Ndrangheta groups is related to a massive operation against the gangster group in December 2019 that resulted in the arrest of more than 300 people.
Most of those arrested in the largest police operation in years against clans in the Vibo Valentia area of Calabria now face judges in a “maxi-trial” to answer for crimes such as murder, drug trafficking, extortion, money laundering and abuse. of power.