Four Italian businessmen and an Indian citizen were convicted and sentenced to prison in Calabria for facilitating undocumented migration. The group allegedly brought non-EU citizens to Italy on fake job contracts.
The Court of Assizes in Reggio Calabria on Monday, May 10 sentenced Antonio Scimone, charged with facilitating undocumented migration, to four years and two months in jail. An additional charge of association to commit a crime didn't hold up because of the statute of limitations.
The sentence came at the conclusion of a trial in which Judge Ornella Pastore upheld appeals by public prosecutor Sara Amerio. Judge Pastore also convicted Domenico Cosmo, Paolo Perre and Carlo Lombardo, and sentenced them to prison terms ranging from three years and nine months to four years and eight months.
The heaviest prison sentence, six years, was given to Indian citizen Sher Singh, a 49-year-old fugitive of justice who the prosecutor's office argued was the main defendant in the trial.
Fake work contracts for undocumented migrants
Scimone, along with the other businessmen, facilitated the entry of non-EU citizens in Italy, almost all of whom were given work contracts to allow them to obtain a stay permit.
In one particular episode in June 2009, Scimone as employer is accused of filing 20 hiring requests for non-EU employees at the central immigration services desk in Reggio Calabria. All of the requests involved non-EU citizens who had contacted Sher Singh.
The prosecutor's office said the work contracts were fake but they allowed for the non-EU citizens to irregularly enter Italy.
Ties with the 'ndrangheta mafia
Scimone is the same businessman, who in 2018, was the focus of the "Martingala" investigation, and accused of being the director of financial transactions with the Calabrian 'ndrangheta mafia.
The district anti-mafia office said Scimone was the main creator of fake invoices through "paper companies" with headquarters in Croatia, Slovenia, Austria and Romania.
These companies were allegedly used to establish non-existent businesses through fake financial documents and payment operations. Scimone has denied these charges in several interviews given to Italian media in 2019 and 2020, including the state broadcaster RAI.
In one interview, with local news channel Reggio TV, he reportedly said that the companies he set up were legitimate, he had always paid his taxes and that he believed people were out to get him because he was Calabrian.
In the interviews he also admitted being related to --through marriage-- or being friends with some who have also been accused, or indeed convicted, of mafia-related crimes. However, he said that these relationships had nothing to do with his business.