ITALIAN JUDGE HELD ON CRIME LINKS, TWO MORE UNDER SUSPICION
ROME : An Italian judge has been arrested in the southern Calabria region on charges of having ties to organised crime, and two others are under suspicion.
Patrizia Serena Pasquin, head of the civil division of the court in Vibo Valentia, is suspected of corruption, forgery and fraud on behalf of the Mancuso “cosca”, or clan, one of the most active criminal groups in the ‘ndrangheta, the Calabrian equivalent of the Sicilian Mafia. Her two colleagues, who have not been identified, are suspected of aiding her, the ANSA news agency reported Friday.
Besides the judges, a total of 33 lawyers, businessmen and shopkeepers are under investigation by the office fighting anti-organised crime in Salerno, near Naples, in the Campania region. Of these, 15 were detained Friday at the request of the prosecutor, Luigi Apicella. The inquiry began two years ago in Calabria but was moved to another region after it was revealed that local judges might be implicated.
Pasquin is suspected of having done favours for the Mancuso clan when tourist infrastructures were being built in the Vibo region. According to ANSA her name regularly cropped up during a trial in progress involving the Mancuso clan in respect of “contacts” that clan boss Diego Mancuso sought to bring into play to recover goods confiscated by the authorities under anti-mafia legislation.
Pasquin is an experienced judge who began her career in 1980 and has alternated between criminal and civil courts. She conducted the early part of the investigation in 1994 of Nicholas Green, an American child fatally injured during an attempted robbery of a car on a Calabrian road. Initially acquitted, those responsible were given long jail terms in 1998.
The ‘ndrangheta specialises in drug-trafficking and protection rackets but is also active in real estate. Its base is Calabria but its tentacles extend to North and South America, Albania, Turkey and north Africa, and it has branches in Belgium, France, Germany, The Netherlands and even Australia.
AFP 10 November 2006