On Thursday, Italian authorities netted more than 40 alleged cohorts of a one-eyed Italian mob boss known for running a Rome-based gang that profited from corrupt public contracts, which were awarded for services like garbage collection and running migrant reception centers.
Among the 44 arrested were local politicians and businessmen, who have been accused of involvement in the criminal operation allegedly run by Massimo Carminati, the one-time far-right militant group leader who was detained at the end of 2014 on charges related to his suspected mafia activity.
In statement pertaining to the arrests, police explained that the network, "by means of corrupt practices and collusion, assured itself numerous contracts and financing from the Lazio Region, the Rome municipality and associated businesses."
Authorities said another 21 people were under investigation in conjunction with the same anti-mafia police operation, which kicked off in 2014. Police previously arrested 36 suspects at the time of Carminati's arrest in December.
The migrant business scheme was uncovered in a 2014 inquiry titled Mafia Capital, which was ordered by Rome's mayor, Ignazio Marino, and encompassed a review of all city contracts. The investigation exposed a system of corruption in which public contracts are granted to a select group of corporations — allegedly connected with Carminati's gang — to run a network of receiving centers for migrants landing in Italy after crossing the treacherous Mediterranean waters by boat. According to the BBC, with thousands of migrants arriving on Italian shores each year, these operations have become quite profitable.
While Marino applauded the operation, the country's anti-immigrant Northern League's party leader Matteo Salvini used the arrests as an opportunity to highlight problems with Italy's handling of migrants.
"Another 44 people arrested for the immigration business. Stop the departures and the boats immediately, stop the contracts right now!" he wrote on Facebook, according to the AFP. "It's nothing to do with being good-hearted, welcoming and supporting… they are thieves! Renzi and Alfano scatter illegal immigrants in the hotels of half of Italy, guess who gains?"
One of the politicians wrapped up in Thursday's arrests is regional councilor Luca Gramiza, a member of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's party, Forza Italia. Gramiza is believed to have been a middleman between the mob and businessmen.
The mobsters are also alleged to have rigged other public tender bids, specifically local municipal contracts for work like garbage disposal, maintaining public parks, and weather response.