Tag: Corsican Mafia

The new face of Corsica’s bloody criminal underworld

| October 19, 2012 | 0 Comments

The new face of Corsica's bloody criminal underworldAs Corsica prepares to bury high-profile lawyer Antoine Sollacaro, who was shot this week at a petrol station, the head of the Corsican legislative assembly tells FRANCE 24 that a wave of gang-related murders is “killing the island’s future”.

A respected Corsican lawyer murdered this week will be buried on Friday as the Mediterranean island struggles to come to terms with a wave of gang violence that has claimed 15 lives so far this year.

Antoine Sollacaro, Corsica’s most experienced and respected barrister, was shot nine times in the head and chest with a high-calibre firearm, in broad daylight, by a gunman riding a motorbike at a petrol station in the island’s capital Ajaccio on Tuesday morning.

Sollacaro was known for his long history of defending Corsican nationalists, including the high-profile case of Yvan Colonna, who is currently serving a life sentence for the 1998 murder of the island’s prefect.

Police say they have neither a motive for Sollacaro’s killing nor any firm leads – at least officially – for what is the 15th murder this year bearing the hallmarks of a gangland hit.

A new breed of killers

Corsica’s criminal underworld has traditionally been linked to nationalist and separatist movements, which have long been a thorn in the French government’s side.

But a new breed of criminal gangs has emerged in the last 10 years, after a wave of assassinations eliminated senior figures in the established Corsican Mafia.

The subsequent power vacuum has been filled by younger gangs who are in competition with each other and hell-bent on accumulating wealth through drugs trafficking, racketeering and property speculation.

Central to their ambitions is Corsica’s unspoiled coastline, much of it protected from development under French law, where land prices are skyrocketing.

The city of Ajaccio, capital of Corsica, which has the highest murder rate in France. Photo © Flickr user kenschneiderusa.

“Pressure is put on mayors to grant planning permission,” Corsican Assembly President Dominique Bucchini told FRANCE 24. “If they prevaricate, they find that their cars have been torched, or a bomb is set off near the mayor’s office. And then finally it comes to a bullet in the head.”

Speaking from the assembly building in central Ajaccio, just a stone’s throw from the scene of Sollacaro’s murder, the veteran Communist politician said the scale and open brutality of the killings was driving the islanders to despair.

France’s murder capital

Also fuelling the wave of violence are the island’s grim economic conditions, which Bucchini said were driving young people to crime “in pursuit of the myth that money is king”.

Corsica, he said, has France’s biggest gap between rich and poor, its oldest population, its highest suicide rate and the worst education scores.

The island has also earned the dubious honour of being France’s murder capital, with higher rates of violent crime than even Sicily, Italy’s notorious Mafia heartland.

“In Corsica, there is an atmosphere of fear,” said Bucchini. “People are completely fed up.”

Bucchini said that while Corsicans feel no nostalgia for the nationalist faces of the old underworld versus the brand of younger criminals that now dominates, there is a new element of anarchy in today’s Corsica.

“A criminal is a criminal, full stop,” he said. “But two decades ago, violence in Corsica was all about politics. Now it is pure banditry. These days, it seems that if you want to be a Mr. Big, you shoot, shoot, shoot.”

Bucchini notes that there is a terrible irony to the violence that now threatens Corsica’s hopes for the future. “They are targeting the very establishment that is trying to resolve Corsica’s problems. They are killing politicians, lawyers – even women.”

‘Drowning in violence’

The Corsican Assembly is preparing new legislation to help protect the coastline and to keep real estate prices down “so that ordinary Corsicans can continue to live here”, Bucchini said, which would also save the picturesque island from the blight of overdevelopment.

But protecting the island’s 300,000 inhabitants from the greed of the gangs may require even more government action, Bucchini said, to develop “a durable economy that will benefit everyone in Corsica, year in, year out”.

“But all efforts to attract investors and encourage real economic development will come to nothing if we are drowning in violence,” he said. “If this gangsterism continues, it will kill our future.”

Source: france24.com

Corsican mafia figure gunned down at butcher shop

| August 7, 2012 | 0 Comments

Corsican mafia figure gunned down at butcher shop

Police said a single hunting rifle was fired at least twice (AFP, Pascal Pochard-Casabianca)

AFP) – 4 hours ago
BASTIA, France — An alleged key figure in one of Corsica’s most powerful crime families, Maurice Costa of the “Brise de Mer” gang, was gunned down in broad daylight Tuesday at his local butcher shop, police said.
Two masked gunmen shot and killed Costa, 60, at 11:08 am (0908 GMT) through the window of the butcher shop in the village of Ponte-Leccia in the north of the French island, police said.
Police said a single hunting rifle was fired at least twice and that Costa died on the spot after being struck in the chest. The gunmen fled in a car that was later found burned a few kilometres (miles) from the village.
A bystander in the shop was also lightly injured by broken glass, police said.
Costa is the 11th presumed member of the “Brise de Mer” (Sea Breeze) gang killed since 2008 in what local police believe is a settling of accounts between criminal gangs.
The gang, named after a bar in the northeastern Corsican city of Bastia where members allegedly gathered, is considered one of the most powerful and influential criminal organisations on the island.
It is alleged to have carried out a series of daring armed robberies in the 1980s and 1990s.
Among them was Switzerland’s biggest-ever bank robbery — the 1990 theft of 31.4 million Swiss francs (now worth 26 million euros/$32 million) from the Union Bank of Switzerland’s branch in central Geneva. The money was never recovered.
The gang, whose presumed members often denied its existence at trial, was allegedly involved in a wide range of crimes from money laundering to illegal gambling.
Costa was among three alleged “Brise de Mer” members who spectacularly escaped from a Bastia prison in 2001 by having a fake fax ordering their release sent to the facility’s warden.
All three, who were serving time on extortion and weapons charges, were later apprehended and are now dead. Before Costa, one was killed in explosion in 2009, the other gunned down the same year.

Last roll of dice for Paris gambling dens

| June 10, 2011 | 0 Comments

Last roll of dice for Paris gambling dens

- A bright Eiffel tower reflects in the still water of a bassin late on December, 25 2010 in Paris. The notorious gambling clubs of Paris that were given to Corsicans for their role in the Resistance are under threat after a police sting closed three for their suspected links with the mafia. -

The notorious gambling clubs of Paris that were given to Corsicans for their role in the Resistance are under threat after a police sting closed three for their suspected links with the mafia.

The three closures in three weeks suggest that French police have finally decided to end decades of tolerance towards the controversial venues.

Paris’s circles de jeu (gambling clubs) long held a reputation as being money-laundering dens controlled by Corsican gangsters based on the Mediterranean island or in Marseille.

Glamorised in detective novels, they were the subject of epic and bloody disputes between rival organized crime clans, notably in the so-called “gambling wars” of the 1970s. However, in recent years the surviving few were believed to have changed their ways.

Eight were still in operation last month but on Wednesday, about 200 officers from Paris’s judicial police swooped on Le Cercle Wagram and L’Eldo in the city’s 17th and 3rd arrondissements after a year-long investigation into their owners’ allegedly fraudulent practices.

The following day, a second swoop took place in Corsica, in which 30 suspects were arrested.

These included two actors from a TV series called Mafiosa, The Clan, shot on the island, and four retired police officers. About $1.1 million in cash was also seized. Just three weeks earlier, another club, Le Cercle Haussmann, in the 2nd arrondissement was raided and shut and seven people placed under investigation for illegal gambling practices.

After years of relative calm, police believe that the Corsican mafia took renewed interest in the clubs as money-laundering outfits when the venues’ profits started to soar thanks to a recent craze in France for poker.

Police said rival gangs had been fighting for control of the clubs after a spate of killings in Corsica and Marseille that left the long-feared “Brise de Mer” gang fatally weakened.

The first circle opened in Paris in 1907 after casinos were banned from operating within 100km of the French capital.

After the war, France let a number of Corsicans run the clubs for services rendered to the Resistance.

They still operate under a 1901 law that deems them “non-profit” organisations whose stated aims are to promote “social, artistic literary and sporting activities”. Under these archaic rules, they are not required to adhere to strict security measures found in casinos, such as fitting video surveillance cameras over every gaming table – meaning there is no way of keeping tabs on the amounts cashed in.

A police investigator told Le Parisien: “We cannot tolerate seeing practices linked to organized crime go on any longer in these places.”

Among Paris’s five remaining circles is the Aviation Club de France, France’s oldest. The legendary venue on the Champs-Elysees is run by the former head of France’s anti-gangster squad.

Source: edmontonjournal.com

Mafia chief who inspired “The French Connection” dies in Argentina

| April 16, 2009 | 0 Comments

François Chiappe, the fearsome Corsican capo-mafia who inspired the famous film “The French Connection” in 1971 died in a geriatric home in the Argentine province of Cordoba last February, according to reports in the Sunday press.

Chiappe took with him the secrets of the Corsican mafia

Chiappe, who was 88 and suffered senile dementia, was living at the elderly home since last December. Nicknamed “thick lips” or “Marcel the Corsican” he begun his crime rampage in 1947 with a bank robbery.

This was followed by drug trafficking, organized prostitution, racketeering, trading in weapons and smuggling operating from Marseilles to United States.

In the late fifties he became a member of the terrorist Organization du Armée Secret, OAS, which fought against the independence of Algiers from France, and was accused of specializing in torturing prisoners.

Born to a poor family in Corsica Chiappe joined the French Army in 1937, and was taken prisoner in 1940, when allegedly he became a Gestapo collaborator, according to a non official biography.

He arrived in Argentina as a stow-away by sea in 1965 and a few years later was imprisoned for an armed robbery at a bank. However in 1973, on the return of civilian rule to Argentina and when political prisoners and guerrillas were set free, he walked away among the crowd. He was later accused of involvement with right wing hit squads that proliferate in Argentina in the seventies.

But he never returned to jail and moved to the sierras of Cordoba where he lived, apparently peacefully, with his Argentine wife. Although he arrived in Argentina as an illegal immigrant at the moment of registering at the elderly home his relatives showed an Argentine passport to his name.

Source: mercopress

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