Italian mayor arrested for criminally issuing ID cards to illegals
The mayor of Riace, a town of some 2 300 people in Calabria, a province in southern Italy, was recently arrested for aiding illegal immigration into his city.
Published: October 7, 2018, 9:35 am
Prosecutors eventually dropped the charges of corruption, because the mayor had not been enriching himself. Instead he was helping illegal immigrants obtain jobs and benefits illegally.
Mayor Domenico Lucano on Wednesday was unrepentant about his crimes and told his brother Giuseppe that “they arrested me for a crime of humanity”.
Lucano, known as “Mimmo”, was said to be “surprised, embittered and also a little angry” at his arrest.
His brother Giuseppe told ANSA “he is angry at some things seen in the warrant, even though the preliminary investigations judge rejected them.
“In any case he is confident, he feels that he has not done anything in particular that could justify a limitation of his freedom. Anyway today he is more serene, he has seen he is not alone”.
Giuseppe, told the Observer. “For hours he was interviewed by the prosecutor – he has absolutely nothing to hide.”
The arrest of Lucano, on suspicion of abetting illegal immigration by marriages of convenience among other things, was hailed by pro-migrant groups.
Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has unveiled a series of anti-immigration measures that included slashing funds for migrant reception. The arrest come in the wake of the suspension by the public broadcaster, RAI, of a TV show lauding “Riace’s exemplary integration model” of globalism called Tutto il mondo è paese [The whole world in a town].
Salvini welcomed news of Lucano’s arrest in a tweet. “Who knows what all the other do-gooders who want to fill Italy with immigrants will say now”.
When approached by the media, Salvini, leader of the anti-migrant League party, said “ask [pro-migrant writer Robert] Saviano, [pro-migrant campaigner Laura] Boldrini, the champions of out-of-control immigration”.
Saviano said inresponse: “this government is taking the first step towards the definitive transformation of Italy from a democracy into an authoritarian State. In Mimmo’s actions there is never the goal of money, but civil disobedience”. The mayor previously riled against “every form of racism, fascism and discrimination”.
Lucano was put under house arrest on Tuesday in relation to allegations of aiding illegal immigration, prosecutors said. Finance police closed in on the town’s mayor named as one of Fortune’s “50 greatest world leaders in 2016”.
Lucano’s administration of the town in the southern region of Calabria had frequently received praise for the way migrants were “integrated” into the local community. But the Africans who benefitted from his largesse spoke no Italian but broken English when they were interviewed by the media.
Lucano’s partner, Tesfahun Lemlem, is accused of the same charges and has been banned from living in the area.
Deputy Premier and labour and Industry Minister Luigi Di Maio, leader of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S), said “Riace was not a model”, as he had been portrayed in the liberal US media.
In the citation for its accolade, Fortune said “though his pro-refugee stance has pitted him against the mafia and the state, Lucano’s model is being studied and adopted as Europe’s refugee crisis crests”.
He was placed 40th among the 50 greatest world leaders.
The investigation, codenamed “Xenia”, has reportedly found a series of offences regarding the management of loans granted by the interior ministry and the prefect’s office of Reggio Calabria to Riace town council, in order to provide accommodation for illegal migrants.
His arrest was part of an investigation into the allocation of a half-million euros in public funds to house illegals and so-called asylum-seekers, according to the Associated Press.
The Guardia di Finanza searched the council offices as well as the mayor’s home. Magistrates from the prosecutor’s office in Locri has accused him of not having “sufficiently accounted for invoices for expenses incurred in 2014”.
Lucano is suspected of setting up fraudulent associations so immigrants could take over trash disposal contracts as well as arranging marriages of convenience to help illegal migrants remain in Italy.
A billboard at the entrance of his town, announces: “Riace – a town of hospitality”. Another on the main square of the town lists the 20 countries people have come from, including Eritrea, Somalia, Nigeria, Pakistan.
The “Xenia” investigation revealed how Lucano, together with his partner Tesfahun Lemlem, had devised a simple yet effective criminal plan to circumvent national regulations governing the arrival of refugees in Italy.
In a phone call recorded by the Guardia di Finanza, Lucano was heard saying: “… I can get you an Italian ID card immediately, because as mayor I am in charge of the registry office. I took over the job after the clerk who previously held the post retired. I did so with the intention of getting round these stupid laws. I am acting against the law but all you really need is an identity card … I won’t waste time checking if your papers are in order; just make an official statement saying you are free to be married; seeing as you’re an asylum seeker, I won’t examine your papers …”
Lucano’s model of “integration” meant to be sustained by generous government funding. In August, he went on a hunger strike because of a lack of funding: “We are reaching the point of no return,” he said at the time. “If the funds do not come… everything will collapse under a pile of rubble”.
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