Police in a migrants' center in a migrants' center in Benevento, Italy
Police in a migrants' center in a migrants' center in Benevento, Italy

Five people have been arrested on charges of fraud against the state for allegedly getting rich on funds destined for migrant receptions in the province of Benevento in southern Italy. In all 36 people have been placed under investigation in the thre year probe, including entrepreneurs and public officials.

Making money out of migrant reception Police on Thursday arrested Paolo Di Donato, former administrator and now consultant of the consortium Maleventum, which runs several migrant reception centres in the Sannio area; businessman Angelo Collarile; justice ministry employee Giuseppe Pavone; Felice Panzone, an employee of the prefecture no longer in service in Benevento and carabinieri police oficer Salvatore Ruta.

They are charged on various counts including fraud against the state, public produrement fraud, corruption and disclosing official secrets. Investigators uncovered a criminal system that made money out of the rigged allocation of migrants, overcrowding in centres and false presence reports, with the complicity of civil servants.

In particular, Panzone allegedly used a code word to warn centre managers of an iminent inspection there. "What is striking in this investigation is the permeability of the public administration, considering the large number of civil servants involved, including those employed by the justice and interior ministries," said prosecutors Aldo Policastro and Giovanni Conzo. 

13 migrant centers probed 

The investigation focused on 13 migrant reception centers, of which 5 have been sequestered due to the terrible conditions there. 

They were all run by the same cooperative, which hosted in total 800 migrants, or 80% of the total in the province. "The real victims in this story are the migrants themselves, who were forced to live in inhumane conditions and didn't even receive their daily pocket money allowance," the prosecutors said. 

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