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Exclusive Rome hotel seized in mafia sweep

12/11/2013

'Ndrangheta invested in property with unrivalled view of capital

Exclusive Rome hotel seized in mafia sweep

(By Denis Greenan). Rome, November 12 - A luxury Rome hotel was among assets seized from Calabrian businessmen linked to the 'Ndrangheta mafia Tuesday. The Grand Hotel Gianicolo, a former monastery converted into a four-star hotel for the Catholic Church's Jubilee in 2000, has 48 rooms, a swimming pool and its own car park. It has become one of the swankiest properties on the hill, Gianicolo or Janiculum, that affords one of the most breathtaking views over Rome. "This goes to show how far 'Ndrangheta money has penetrated the Italian capital," police said. "They are quite bold about where they will launder their money". Five years ago a former Dolce Vita-era bar on the storied Via Veneto, the Caffe' De Paris, turned out to be in the hands of the Calabrian Mob, which recycles its vast cocaine profits in big Italian cities and leading foreign economies. The Hotel Gianicolo was seized from a Calabrian-born real-estate magnate, Giuseppe Mattiani, and his son. Mattiani and his family, who have suspected ties to a top 'Ndrangheta clan, bought up the old monastery in the 1990s and did it up to profit from the huge influx of Catholic pilgrims for the 2000 Jubilee, police said. The Janiculum Hill, which gets its name from the two-faced Roman God Janus, is not one of Rome's seven fabled hills because it is across the Tiber from the ancient city. It is one of the best places in Rome to drink in the staggering array of domes and bell towers dotting the skyline of the world's leading open-air architectural museum. Other sights on the Janiculum include the church of San Pietro in Montorio, built upon the site formerly thought to be where St Peter was crucified. A small shrine known as the Tempietto, designed by Donato Bramante, marks the supposed site of Peter's death. The Janiculum also houses a Baroque fountain built by Pope Paul V in the late 17th century, the famed Fontana dell'Acqua Paola, and several foreign research institutions, including the American Academy in Rome and the Spanish Academy in Rome. The Hill is also the location of The American University of Rome, the Pontifical Urban University, and the Pontifical North American College, as well as the Botanical Gardens of Rome's La Sapienza University and the Palazzo Montorio, residence of the Ambassadors of Spain. In Tuesday's operation another four-star hotel was confiscated from the Mattiani group - back on home turf in Calabria. The Hotel Arcobaleno in Palmi was seized along with other properties worth over 150 million euros, police said. According to a recent report from the Eurispes research agency, annual drugs profits for 'Ndrangheta, which controls the European cocaine trade, are now the equivalent of 3% of Italian GDP. 'Ndrangheta (from a Greek word meaning 'heroism' or 'virtue') once lived in the twin shadow of Cosa Nostra in Sicily and the Camorra in Naples. While those two syndicates, notably the Sicilians, were growing fat on the transatlantic heroin trade through operations like the infamous 'French connection', 'Ndrangheta was only just emerging from its traditional stock-in-trade of kidnappings in the Calabrian highlands. It has since become a highly sophisticated global network, Italian officials say. As well as being the richest, 'Ndrangheta is also regarded as the most impenetrable of Italy's mafias, with its close-knit family-based organisation outdoing the Sicilian mafia in its ability to defeat police efforts to turn members into State witnesses. The European law enforcement agency Europol identified the 'Ndrangheta mafia in a June report as one of the "most threatening" organized crime groups on the global level, due to its "enormous financial might" and "immense corruptive power," with a presence in Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, US, Colombia and Australia.