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The Mafia and the migrants

By Cal Thomas, Tribune Content Agency on

ROME -- I spotted them on my way to dinner with a friend near Castel Gandolfo. They are migrants from Africa, sitting by the side of the road outside a "temporary" residence that, for many, appears to have become permanent. They all have cellphones. They all seem oblivious to us as we pass by.

My friend, a Sicilian by birth, says they are people from African nations the Italian government has taken in. The state pays 90 Euros (about $108 U.S. dollars) per day, per person, he says, but the migrants receive only a pittance, due to skimming by the Mafia.

"The Mafia is still around?" I ask. "I thought it was a relic, as depicted in movies like 'The Godfather" and "Goodfellas."

"Not so," he says. "They are getting rich off of these people and the government does nothing about it. They can't go anywhere because the government won't give most of them papers."

The Mafia may or may not retain its infamous title, but the corruption that was part of the old order apparently remains by whatever name it is called.

Last March, the newspaper Gazetta del Sud reported that Luca Odevaine, a former senior police officer and city official, admitted taking bribes of 5,000 Euros a month from a senior member of a Mafia gang to act as their "facilitator."

In a highly publicized trial two months ago, 59-year-old Massimo Carminati, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for operating a "mafia-style network" that, reported The Guardian newspaper, "used extortion, fraud and theft to divert millions of Euros that had been destined for public services."

Carminati, it said, is "The ringleader of a gang whose criminal tentacles reached into almost every department of Rome's City Hall."

Carminati's right-hand man, 61-year-old Salvatore Buzzi, was sentenced to 19 years in prison. In all, 46 people were tried and received various sentences. Only five were acquitted.

The skimming schemes have left the Eternal City so short of cash it not only is having difficulty helping migrants find a place to live -- and assist them to find jobs -- it is having difficulty repairing its buses when they break down, filling potholes or even keeping the city's trees healthy so they don't fall over and block traffic or injure pedestrians.

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