Italy has been shocked by a massive scandal in the wake of the arrest of seven Carabinieri officers suspected of being involved in a series of crimes ranging from drug trafficking to unlawful arrests and torture.
In an unprecedented move, prosecutors in the northern Italian city of Piacenza closed down and sequestered the local Carabinieri barracks as part of an investigation against officers operating from it. Six local officers were taken into custody and one put under house arrest.
“Nothing that was going on in those barracks was legal,” Piacenza Chief Prosecutor Grazia Pradella told journalists. Only one officer working there was not involved in what Pradella described as “shocking crimes.”
Carabinieri are a part of the Italian Armed Forces tasked with civil policing functions as well. Yet, the accused apparently decided to use their status as law enforcement to make criminal profits. The seven stand accused of running criminal schemes that involved supplying local dealers with drugs, providing cover for them as well as unlawful arrests and torture of people – something Pradella compared to the methods of Italy’s infamous crime syndicates.
Other charges leveled against them following a six-month-long investigation include extortion, grievous bodily harm, embezzlement, abuse of office and fraud.
The officers managed to get away with their crimes at least since 2017 and even the coronavirus pandemic did not disrupt their plans. ’’While the city of Piacenza was counting its many coronavirus dead, these Carabinieri were supplying drugs to dealers who were without [them] due to the anti-Covid measures,” prosecutor said.
The officers signed off on declarations indicating that they were merely checking drug dealers when they moved around the city during lockdown to conceal their drug trafficking schemes.
Italy’s Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini sought to mitigate the fallout caused by the scandal. He denounced the suspects’ actions as “unspeakable crimes” but warned that the developments should not tarnish the image of the force in general.
The corps was made of hundreds of thousands of dedicated men and women, who do their best to protect Italians, he said. The Carabinieri Command immediately suspended all the suspects and announced it was considering “strict disciplinary measures” against them.
Piacenza province has the third highest Covid-19 death rate in Italy while the city itself was one of the hardest hit in the country.
Like this story? Share it with a friend!