Showing posts with label 'Ndràngheta. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 'Ndràngheta. Show all posts

January 25, 2018

Murder, extortion, usury, drug trafficking, plus the plunder of art. Do you know whose hands your art collection has passed through?

While a single, somewhat less than attractive not likely ancient artifact, recovered during a police raid in Italy, might not garner as much attention in the English media as say, an Etruscan vase seized from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it still deserves a closer look.

The bust, pictured above, deserves attention because if you dig a bit deeper than just reading a short headline of it being confiscated yesterday along with cocaine, a semiautomatic Beretta and a Colt revolver, you can begin to understand a sliver of the dynamics that sometimes come into play on the darker side of the illicit art market. A place where transactions can sometimes be furthered by violent criminals, in complete juxtaposition to the well-manicured, suit and tie wearing, art dealers who later launder illicit objects through some of the art market's finer art galleries.

This marble bust was seized in the insalubrious quarter of Ostia Nuova, twenty-five minutes west of Rome.  The marble head of a child was recovered during search and seizure warrants carried out late yesterday evening and early this morning in which ultimately thirty-one individuals were arrested on suspicion of affiliation with the Spada organized crime family.  Each of the persons taken into custody will answer to possible charges governing the crime of mafia-type criminal association as defined by Article 416 bis in the Italian Criminal Code.  One suspect remained at large at the time this article was written.

Over the years, the area surrounding Ostia has become fertile ground for criminal activities of all types and the scene of bloody clashes between rival factions of mafia clans and local right-wing criminal gangs. In the face of competing criminal organizations, Italy's Carabinieri and the country's Guardia di Finanza have seen the underworld influence in the region ebb and flow, as one organized crime group replaces another, with each competing group vying for its own coastal territory in order to control political, drug, gambling, prostitution, loan-sharking or social housing rackets.

Speaking about the area where the marble bust was seized, organized crime author Roberto Saviano, who lives his life under police escort due to mafia threats, once spoke about Ostia saying  "[it] has now become like Corleone, like Scampìa: the domain territory of the clans."  A place where the influence of three families: Fasciani, Triassi and Spada have been pervasive in reshaping the power-balances between various Italian criminal organisations.

Locals in the community, who have lost faith in politics and institutions, often simply close their eyes to the blatant presence of organized crime in Ostia, either out of fear of retribution, or sadly, because they simply feel indifference.

In 2011 the trail of blood that bloodied Ostia escalated and newspapers recounted the story of the shocking daytime assassination of Francesco Antonini (Sorcanera), aged 45, and Giovanni Galleoni (Bafficchio), aged 42. Both men had been lieutenants affiliated with the Magliana gang and its also murdered boss, Paolo Frau.  Before being gunned down,  Antonini and Galleoni were incriminated in the managing of drug trafficking and laundering of illicit proceeds, activities conducted in the Ostia area in the shadow of close alliances with both Camorra and 'Ndrangheta, but in competition with the local Spada family.

In June 2017 Italian police made 21 arrests in connection to a drug trafficking ring tied to members of the Spada organization.  This network operated internationally bringing drugs into Italy through human mules and shipments arriving from Barcelona which fed the market in Ostia and Rome.  During these arrests, 700 kilos of hashish, marijuana and cocaine were seized, along with various caliber arms and ammunitions.

As law enforcement continued to step up its pressure on the clans, seven additional affiliates of the Spada organization were sentenced in October 2018 to a combined 56 years in jail for various offenses ranging from extortion to mafia association. Carmine Spada, the local family's boss, was sentenced to 10 years for extortion and mafia association.

Perhaps rattled by his brother's arrest, or with a sense of invincibility, Roberto Spada attacked RAI news journalist Daniel Piervincenzi on November 7, 2017 during an impromptu interview.  The assault was captured by news cameraman Edward Anselmi as the incident unfolded.  

Midway through his questioning regarding the city of Ostia and the Spada family's relationship with the neo-fascist populist group Casa Pound, Spada violently headbutted Piervincenzi breaking his nose and bloodying his face.  To his credit, Anselmi courageously continued filming and held tight to his camera while his journalistic partner was further battered by Spada with a truncheon as he tried to withdraw, while a second assailant violently tried to grab the cameraman's video camera as can be seen and heard in the graphic footage below. 

After the attack, journalist Piervincenzi spoke of the townspeople who had witnessed the assault as it unfolded but who remained silent due to a climate of fear, silence and intimidation.  One witness apparently even closed the blinds to his apartment to avoid having to acknowledge the act of aggression taking place outside his home.

Piervincenzi was so frightened by the incident that he and his cameraman drove all the way back to Rome instead of seeking immediate medical treatment for his broken nose at the nearby hospital in Ostia, saying: "We have been afraid. Staying there, at that time I was not sure. We were concerned that some member of the Spada family could reach us at the hospital and they could harm us and steal our camera with the video [footage] that we shot."  

Roberto Spada was arrested by police for the incident and charged with grievous bodily harm and domestic violence with the aggravating circumstance that he acted in a mafia environment. Both he and Carmine Spada have also just been implicated today as having direct involvement in the earlier murders of Antonini and Galleoni back in 2011.

But back to our looted or possibly stolen marble bust.

Yesterday's search and seizure took place in the sub quarter of Ostia Nuovo, where large public housing buildings alternate with crumbling infrastructure and drug-dealing street corners.  It is in this zone that law enforcement agents have made a concerted effort, to reduce the Spada family's influence, who have, until quite recently, controlled significant parts of the suburb's underworld economy.

In a series of raids by Carabinieri officers, which involved searches at multiple properties tied to, or controlled by, associates of the Spada family, law enforcement officers identified the 7.65 caliber semiautomatic pistol and a revolver in the basement of an Ostia Nuova condominium.  In addition to the two weapons, officers recovered doses of cocaine and a precision scale used for weighing narcotics hidden in a niche of the same building's elevator shaft.

The marble bust and a seperate marble inscription were found hidden under blankets inside a suspect's automobile. The owner of the car, is already on house arrest.

The marble head has now been sequestered while its authenticity is confirmed. The firearms will undergo ballistic comparison testing, to determine whether or not the weapons might be linked to past criminal actions.

By:  Lynda Albertson

February 11, 2017

Recovered: More paintings with ties to 'Ndràngheta

“Miracolo di Gesù” (guarigione del nato cieco) 
Italian law enforcement knew they were onto something when a search warrant executed on the apartment of a pensioner in Reggio Calabria turned up a religious painting. Cross checking the canvas, which depicted Christ healing a blind man, with images in "Leonardo", the Italian database of stolen cultural properties overseen by the Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale, the officers' search query came back with a positive match to a painting stolen in Randazzo, Sicily in 2001.

A second search warrant was then executed on another apartment in Messina, Sicily titled to the same individual where thirteen other artworks were recovered.

The artworks recovered in Messina are:

“Paesaggio” signed with the initials “a.s.”
“Uomo con Cappello” signed with the initials “bv”
“Natura Morta” by Giuliana Cappello
“Nudo di Donna” by Giuliana Cappello
“Tree and Head” by Salvator Dalì
“Figure su Sfondo Rosso”, by Renato Guttuso
“Combattimento Tra Due Galli” by Mario Pinizzotto
“Folla con Sfondo Sole Rosso e Volto Barbuto” by Mario Pinizzotto
“Pescatore” by Mario Pinizzotto
“Pescivendolo” by Mario Pinizzotto
“Veduta Urbana con Persone”, by Mario Pinizzotto
“Ponte Vecchio”
A bust of Christ 

The artworks are believed to be a small portion of the collection of 78 year old Calabrian businessman Gioacchino Campolo, who was sentenced in 2011 to 18 years house arrest for criminal association, extortion and usury jointly by the Casalesi clan of the Camorra and the De Stefano 'ndrina, one of the most powerful 'Ndràngheta clans in Reggio Calabria.

Gioacchino Campolo 
With an estimated €320 million in assets Campolo needed a creative form of investment.  He transformed his profits from crime and corruption into forty real estate holdings in Paris, Rome and Reggio Calabria and by buying noteworthy artworks. In 2013, the Italian government formally confiscated 125 works from his collection including paintings by Salvador Dalì, Giorgio De Chirico, Bonalumi, Carrà, Lucio Fontana, Renato Guttuso, Domenico Purificato, Rosai, Mario Sironi, Antonio Ligabue and many others.

Those art works are now part of a permanent exhibition titled “From shadow to light,” housed in a four thousand square meter gallery at the Palace of Culture in Reggio Calabria.

The owner of the properties where the 2017 recent cache of artworks were recovered has been charged with receiving stolen goods and is reported to possibly be a former employee.

By: Lynda Albertson