Sicily court convicts 91 in massive fraud of EU pasture fund

Oct 31, 2022, 6:09 PM | Updated: Nov 1, 2022, 6:35 am

ROME (AP) — A court in Sicily on Tuesday convicted 91 defendants of roles in a organized crime scheme that bilked the European Union of some 5 million euros (dollars) in subsidies for grazing land on the Mediterranean island.

The reading of the verdicts and sentences took so long, the court in Patti began announcing its decision late Monday night and finished early the next day.

The sentences ranged from two years to 30. Ten defendants were acquitted. The trial began in March 2021 and deliberations lasted a week.

Prosecutors alleged that dozens of reputed Mafia members and white-collar professionals had colluded to defraud the EU of subsidies for use of grazing land, including Nebrodi state parkland in the eastern end of Sicily.

In its account of the trial, Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica said 150 companies fraudulently obtained some 5 million euros from 2010 to 2017, including for land that only existed on paper.

Former park director Giuseppe Antoci, who helped investigators to uncover the scheme, was in the courtroom to hear the verdicts. He narrowly escaped death in 2016 when bullets raked his car. Investigators suspected the attack was the work of local members of Cosa Nostra, the Sicilian Mafia.

Antoci told reporters that hearing the verdicts was an emotional moment after “years of sacrifice for myself and my family.”

Among the charges that resulted in convictions were extortion and fraud against the European Union. Prosecutors contended that in some instances, defendants used violence and threats to gain control of existing pastures so they could apply for the subsidies.

Prosecutors said the elaborate fraud scheme involved the extensive use of figurehead owners to obtain the EU funds. The allocated funds then moved through a complex system of financial instruments, including accounts abroad, before winding up with the fraudsters, prosecutors alleged.

To obtain the funds, applicants had to certify they had no links to organized crime, and the attestations provided were often false, investigators said.

In arguing for indictment, prosecutors alleged that complicit notaries and bureaucrats handling the paperwork helped Cosa Nostra clan bosses carry out the scheme.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - A Boeing 747-8, Boeing's new passenger plane, takes its first flight, Sunday, March 20, 2011...
Associated Press

Boeing’s last 747 to roll out of Washington state factory

After more than half a century, Boeing is set to roll its last 747 out of a Washington state factory on Tuesday.
16 hours ago
(AP Photo/Paula Bronstein, File)...
Associated Press

Inslee touts new housing program for Spokane’s homeless

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee was in Spokane Monday to preview the opening of a new housing project for homeless people, calling the Catalyst Project a step toward ending the state’s homelessness crisis.
16 hours ago
Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at a news conference about a jury's verdict against members...
Associated Press

Garland: Justice Dept.’s civil rights work is key priority

WASHINGTON (AP) — The early work of the Justice Department’s civil rights division meant confronting white supremacists who were intimidating Black voters, and 65 years later, its work is just as urgent amid a surge of hate crimes in the U.S., Attorney General Merrick Garland said Tuesday. “Now more than ever, protecting civil rights is […]
16 hours ago
Associated Press

Mississippi grain company’s ex-CEO indicted on fraud charges

GREENVILLE, Miss. (AP) — The former leader of a Mississippi grain storage and processing company has been indicted on federal and state charges, more than a year after the company filed for bankruptcy, prosecutors said Tuesday. John R. Coleman, 46, of Greenwood, Mississippi, is the former CEO of Express Grain Terminals, LLC. A federal grand […]
16 hours ago
FILE - In this photo released by the Saudi Royal Palace, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, ri...
Associated Press

US court dismisses suit against Saudi prince in killing

WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. federal judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, bowing to the Biden administration’s insistence that the prince was legally immune in the case. District of Columbia U.S. District Judge John D. Bates heeded the U.S. government’s […]
16 hours ago
A burned-out warehouse is seen, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, in Baltimore. A man was found dead inside th...
Associated Press

Body of Baltimore fire victim went undiscovered for hours

BALTIMORE (AP) — Several hours after firefighters extinguished a warehouse fire in southwest Baltimore early Sunday, the scene was eerily quiet as Donte Craig stepped through the charred rubble, trying to remain hopeful. He was looking for his older brother James Craig Jr., who leased the warehouse for his demolition and hauling business. After hearing […]
16 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Sicily court convicts 91 in massive fraud of EU pasture fund