EU funds ‘going to MAFIA’: Park leader claims £2.6BN in farming subsidies stolen by mob
MAFIA dons have raked in £2.6 billion of EU funds over the past decade – cash which was meant to benefit sheep farmers and communities in a national park – it has been claimed.
Giuseppe Antoci, the former director of the protected Nebrodi National Park who narrowly escaped an assassination attempt by the mafia in 2016, said outlaws are brazenly stealing the bloc’s money meant for local people. Mr Antoci, who endured years of threats from criminal clans when he headed the area of wilderness, says Cosa Nostra families scare farmers away from bidding to lease out land from the state. The criminals then secure low-rate leases on the patches of grass within the 200,000 acre park, with many using front companies as cover, and receive millions of euros in EU subsidies.
In his new book ‘The Mafia of the Pastures – Europe’s Big Fraud’, Mr Antoci said the cash obtained by the clans over a 10-year period amounted to £2.63bn (€3 bn).
The author has been known to speak out against he gangs and lives under constant police protection.
Using the example of a case in which he claims the mafia rented a 2,470-acre patch of land for £31,857 (€36,400) a year, he wrote: “They managed to make €1 million or more on those 1,000 hectares.”
He added: “For years, mafia families terrorised honest landowners and rented land within the park for a few thousand euros, pocketing each year hundreds of thousands of euros from the EU.”
Mr Antoci has been speaking out agains the mafia for years and has endured years of threats
It comes three years after Mr Antoci survived an early morning shooting in the park while driving under police escort.
After he had halted his car when he found the road ahead of him blocked by large rocks, assailants emerged and opened fire on his vehicle.
At least three bullet holes were left in the side of his vehicle but he escaped unharmed.
Officers in the police escort shot back and the attackers fled the scene with was located deep within the national park.
Mr Antoci says the mafia use threats of violence to prevent families bidding for the grazing land
Nebrodi National Park stretches acros 200,000 acres of Sicily
The attack happened three years into Mr Antoci’s time as overseer of the land when he had been cracking down heavily on fraudulent leasing and intimidation of local landowners.
After he was removed from his post in February 2018 six months before his time was up, he received a message from the Cosa Nostra saying they would not be deterred from defrauding the bloc.
As part of his fight against the illegal conduct, Mr Antoci uncovered collusion between clans and local politicians on a large scale.
Ignazio Corrao, a Sicilian MEP, has raised the issue of widespread fraud by the so-called “agro-aria” in the European Parliamen
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