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03.10.2008 Diaspora (Italy)

CASALESI MAFIA BEHIND KILLING OF GHANAIANS... Italian Police declare war on mafia, as $150m property seized,100 men grabbed

By News desk, with file from Peter Popham in Rome - Ghanaian Chronicle
CASALESI MAFIA  BEHIND KILLING  OF GHANAIANS... Italian Police declare war on mafia, as  $150m property seized,100 men grabbed

Italian police on Tuesday struck what they claimed was a historic blow against the Neapolitan Mafia, as the slaughter of Ghanaians and other Africans, widely reported two weeks ago, was traced to the Mafiosi in Naples.

In a series of raids, they arrested more than 100 suspected gangsters, confiscated gang property valued at more than £100m ($150m), and seized three high-ranking mobsters believed to have been closely involved in the murder of six people in the resort, north of Naples, nearly two weeks ago.

At about 9.30pm, six or seven men, armed with Kalashnikovs and calibre 9 pistols and wearing bullet-proof jackets, burst into the "Ob Exotic Fashions" clothes shop in CastelVolturno. They fired more than 100 bullets and killed six men - three from Ghana, two from Liberia and one from Togo.

Twenty minutes earlier, in nearby Baia Verde, in what police believe to be a related incident, 53-year-old Antonio

Celiento, owner of a games hall, was killed in a "professional hit", when he was riddled with at least 20 bullets fired by masked killers.

Investigators believe that the powerful Casalesi crime family were behind the killings, punishing the immigrants because they had dared to push drugs without having paid their "dues", in an area dominated by the Casalesi.

Senior Caserta-based police officer, Ezio Monaco, speculated that the army might be called in to help with what he called a "crime emergency", saying "We are considering the possibility of bringing in the army."

The police interpretation of the killings was, however, strongly contested by the African Community of Castel Volturno, who staged an impromptu road block. A Ghanaian, Steven, uncle of one of those killed, told reporters that his nephew had "done nothing wrong", whilst other Africans, shouting "Italian bastards" at their perceived attackers, denied any links with the Camorra, and accused the local community of racism.

The African protest soon became violent, with a seemingly spontaneous gathering and throwing of stones, and in the process smashed cars and shop windows.

During a ceremony in Naples, held to mark the "miraculous" liquefaction of the blood of the fourth-century Christian martyr, San Gennaro, the Archbishop of Naples, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, issued a strong condemnation of the Camorra.

Italian police on Tuesday struck what they claimed was a historic blow against the Neapolitan Mafia, as the slaughter of Ghanaians and other Africans, widely reported two weeks ago, was traced to the mafiosi in Naples.

In a series of raids, they arrested more than 100 suspected gangsters, confiscated gang property valued at more than ?100m ($150m), and seized three high-ranking mobsters believed to have been closely involved in the murder of seven people in a seaside resort, north of Naples, nearly two weeks ago.

It has been established that the Ghanaians were alleged slaughtered on September 18, by the Casalesi, the most feared and violent clan of the Camorra, as the Naples Mafia is known, was the most shocking in Italy for several years.

The killers struck twice in the town of Castelvolturno, a sleepy and quiet seaside haven, popular with Ghanaians for several decades now, because it is just a $3 train ride to the capital, Rome. It is also a place famous for affordable rent, and boasts of several games arcade, frequented by Ghanaian looking for jobs.

This is also one of the most tolerant of Italian towns. The Casalesi opened fire on an African-operated boutique and tailoring shop, where six Ghanaians and others from Burkina Faso and Nigeria were caught in the hail of gun fire.

The story doing the rounds was that the Ghanaians had reneged on paying for their protection – a kind of insurance scheme run by the mafia, for petty drug dealers pushing for the majors. This is called 'Pizzo', or protection money, and failure to pay often leads to such dire consequences. But it emerged that those killed had no involvement in the drugs trade.

“I remember staying at Castelvolturno around 1988/9 and found the town quite permissive of Ghanaians and Africans in general”, said Kofi Coomson, recalling with nostalgia the haunts he visited in his 'hustling' (in his own words) days in Europe.

In recent years, Caserta, the Province on the Northern outskirts of Naples, which includes Castelvolturno, has become the most lawless in the country. Thugs have infiltrated into local government and businesses, from public construction contracts to the service sector, where the Ghanaian immigrants looking for 'concre' jobs flocked.

Fear that Caserta was slipping out of control prompted the Interior Minister, Roberto Maroni, to declare "war" on the Camorra last week. "The state exists," he told the press, as he reported the successes made. "It intervenes in an effective way and it is regaining control,” the Interior Minister said.

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