Carabinieri nab 34 in blitz on mob loansharkers

ROME -- The ‘Ndrangheta mafia in Calabria and loansharking is a combination that has transformed the Mafia families of Locri into types of funding companies that “strangle” those that can’t pay. The antimafia “Printer” operation took place on Wednesday night, which led to the arrest of 34 people who are considered close to the Ursino-Jerinò clan in Gioiosa Jonica, and are accused of mafia association, extortion, exploitation and abusive credit exercise.

 At the centre of the investigation is the story of printer Nicodemus Panetta, owner of an established advertising agency, who rebelled in 2014 against the ‘Ndrangheta clans that had been exploiting him for years, forcing him to pay interest of up to 500 percent to the clan. One day he couldn’t take it anymore and presented himself to the barracks of the financial police in Locri, explaining the abyss he was now in to Colonel Vinci. He testified against the threats of the moneylenders who, in order to recover the money from the printer, said they would have given the credit to leading members of the local ‘Ndrangheta, the mafia bourgeoisie who for years have been gaining riches and accumulating riches, without tax returns.

 Two years of investigation allowed the District Anti-Mafia Directorate of Reggio Calabria to undermine the criminal organization operating in Locri, but also links in Lombardy and Piedmont. The investigation of the financial police and the Ros Carabinieri was coordinated by the prosecutor Federico Cafiero de Raho, helped by Nicola Gratteri and deputies Antonio De Bernardo and Simona Ferraiuolo. Other than the arrests, which must now be validated by the judge for preliminary investigations, around 50 searches were carried out across Gioiosa Jonica, Siderno, Milan, Turin, and Como. The anti-mafia team have also ordered the seisure of goods, with a value of around 15.5 million euros, from villas to companies, bank accounts, and luxury cars.

 After his complaint, Nicodemus Panetta has cooperated with the Prosecution who, thanks to the telephone interceptions and investigative activities in the territory, have reconstructed all the steps that led to the putting the printer on his last legs. Panetta and his family were forced to leave Locri and, today, have been brought under the protection program reserved for witnesses to justice. His alleged captors were paraded in handcuffs in front of the same barracks of the financial police on Thursday morning, where two years ago the printer asked for help.

 Among those arrested Domenico Antonio Jerinò is considered one of the main suspects. The financial police arrested him in his luxurious villa, where he was surprised in his sleep and didn’t resist the soldiers who notified him of the arrest warrant issued by the Public Prosecutor. A few hours after the transfer to prison, among those arrested, some have not lost the swagger that characterizes the 'Ndrangheta in this territory. Addressing reporters, in fact, one of them said: "You see that we are still not arrested." Completion of the procedural formalities, as with the other 33 suspects, will be followed through in prison.

 These arrests come after those of various other members of the ‘Ndrangheta in the couple of days previously, such as the 15 arrested in Switzerland from a cell that had been operating there for 40 years, as well as Antonio Gallace, a potential ‘boss’ in the clan, who was arrested in Spain on Tuesday evening.