A Maltese bank formed part of a “complex trail of bank accounts” to hide millions in funds defrauded from the European Union by Sicilian Mafia in agricultural aid, according to news reports.
The story quoted Italian police saying the funds “moved through a complex trail of bank accounts to make the money harder to trace, including banks in Lithuania, Malta, Bulgaria, and other countries”. The names of the banks are not mentioned.
Working together with public officials, “crime clans” of the Sicilian Mafia “defrauded the European Union of more than 10 million euro,” according to the report, quoting Italian authorities.
A total of 94 people were arrested after a crackdown by Italy’s Carabinieri and financial police.
National anti-Mafia Prosecutor Federico Cafiero de Raho said the “alleged fraud involved thousands of hectares (acres) of farmland in eastern Sicily that fraudulently qualified for subsidies starting in 2013”.
“In many cases, the Mafiosi used the time-tested method of violent threats to grab ownership of lands actually eligible for the EU aid,” the report said, quoting Italy’s top investigator of organized crime Cafiero de Raho.
Both local public administrators, as well as a notary public, were arrested with suspected mobsters near Messina. Over the past years, farmers who refused to be involved with fraudulent practices reported threats from Cosa Nostra.
“Suspects were arrested for investigation of belonging to the Mafia or aiding it, extortion and fraud involving public funds, among other accusations,” it continued.