Italian authorities in Sicily broke up an alleged criminal organization, composed of Pakistanis who exploited fellow Pakistani citizens through a "gangmaster system." According to investigators, the suspects were responsible for serious violence and a murder.
A criminal organization made up of Pakistanis who allegedly exploited fellow migrants -- most of whom were also Pakistani citizens -- in the area of Caltanissetta, Sicily, and the surrounding province was reportedly broken up on Wednesday by Italian police. 11 suspects were arrested and one person was placed on house arrest. One person is still being sought.
The suspects have been charged with criminal association to commit gangmastering, extortion, kidnapping, robbery, assault, threats, burglary, and violence or threats to force the committing of a crime.
Suspects in migrant killing
Six of the suspects are also accused of the murder of Adnan Siddique. The Pakistani migrant was killed on the evening of June 3, after he reported the gangmasters to authorities.
According to the charges, the group, which was made up of Pakistanis who had been living in the city center for some time, "used a para-mafia method, subjecting their community to a regime of harassment and terror and professionally exploiting it in order to ensure the group's continuity over time."
During searches that took place Tuesday night, officers reportedly found two ledgers in the home of one of the suspects that contained the names of the exploited workers and their pay, which was about 25 to 30 euros per day.
Complaints led to investigation
The investigation was opened after several Pakistani migrants filed formal complaints to the police. Investigators said the numerous episodes of violence allowed authorities to "clarify the existence of a true criminal organization ... which was strengthened by the continuous use of threats and violence."
The alleged leader of the group was Mahammad S., who -- together with Bila A., Ali I., Ali M. and Giada G. -- reportedly recruited Pakistani workers using gangmaster methods.
Their fellow citizens were "offered" to owners of farms "in exploitative conditions, taking advantage of the needy state of the workers, agreeing upon compensation, which hovered around €25 to €30 a day, keeping for themselves part or even all of the compensation," according to investigators.
Those who complained were allegedly subject to violent punishment. One migrant was reportedly beaten with sticks and clubs for asking for his pay.
Farm owners being investigated
The police said they were had also launched investigations into the farm owners' involvement, given that "they found it convenient to turn to the gangmasters because they were well aware that no formal complaint would ever have been filed to damage them, due to the exploitative working conditions."
Investigators reportedly uncovered episodes of violence including death threats.
One migrant was allegedly held hostage for three hours, with a knife pointed at his throat. He was pressured to call his father in his home country and to tell him to send €5,000 to obtain his "freedom".
A Nigerian woman was reportedly attacked by members of the group and robbed of €200 euros while she was holding her one-year-old son in her arms. The woman's husband was allegedly assaulted with kicks and punches.