Italy: Nine men convicted for cheating migrants in Abruzzo

Rome: A court in central Italy has found nine people guilty of defrauding migrants by making them pay to secure nonexistent jobs, then exploiting them or coercing them into selling drugs.

Nine people were found guilty of charges including criminal association to promote illegal immigration, fraud and fraudulent misrepresentation by an appeals court in the central Italian city of L’quila last week.

The court said the defendants had promised migrants jobs in exchange for the payment of €5,000-€7,000 each, the local news site reports. However, the promise often turned out to be false, and the victims were forced to work for almost no pay, exploited or coerced into selling drugs.

Nine other people were acquitted of all charges by the court, according to the same source.

The trial followed Operation ‘Casablanca’ that led, on May 17, 2012, to the dismantling of a criminal organization involving Moroccan nationals and Italian accomplices.

A total of 12 defendants were acquitted and 18 others convicted in the trial of first instance.

Among the nine men convicted by the court was entrepreneur Luigi D’Apice, who was given a sentence of 4 years and 11 months.

D’Apice is president of Opoa Marsica (Organization of fruit and vegetable producers) and a local soccer club, Fucense Calcio. His defence attorney, Antonio Milo, said he would appeal the sentence.

He said the court’s decision was “an unjust ruling that convicts a good man and one of Europe’s most important entrepreneurs without a shred of evidence.”

“The Cassation [the highest court of appea] will know how to restore the prevalence of facts over hypotheses,” Milo added. Neither Opoa nor the soccer club is involved in the case.