Author: Nicola Sharp 16 November 2022
Nicola Sharp of financial crime specialists Rahman Ravelli assesses the efforts being made.
With 91 people having been sent to prison in Italy for fraudulently selling farmland, the country can claim a success in its efforts to combat the abuse of European Union (EU) subsidies.
In January 2020, a mass operation led to the Italian police arresting 94 people suspected of fraud, in what was one of the biggest Sicilian mafia-focused operations of the time.
Those who have now been imprisoned were convicted of extortion, fraud against the EU and mafia association. They were sentenced to between two and 30 years.
With over 90 convictions, it is clear that the Italian authorities are taking a serious stand when it comes to organised crime. They have demonstrated in this case that they will not be afraid to investigate and prosecute.
It has been claimed that the Sicilian mafia has been increasingly involved in fraudulently acquiring EU agricultural funding. This has posed a problem for both Sicilian farmers and the regional government. It is estimated that, between 2010 and 2017, fraudsters acquired more than €5 million in EU subsidies by selling farmland that was either non-existent, stolen or state-owned.
It was noted in court that receiving a call from the mafia would scare farmers into giving up their land, as the consequences of not doing so would be unthinkable. Those who did not want to be involved in such fraud faced the prospect of having their animals killed, homes burned down or farmland ruined.
Nobody would argue that the problem has gone away with these convictions. But they are a victory in Italy’s battle against crime, which sends a clear message and deterrent to organised crime members.
Nicola is known for her fraud, civil recovery, arbitration and business crime expertise, her experience of leading the largest financial disputes and multinational investigations and her skills in devising preventative measures and conducting internal investigations for corporates.