29 May 2015
Hannah Roberts in Rome
Caritas consultant accused of embezzlement in migrants scandal
A consultant with the Catholic aid agency, Caritas, is suspected of involvement in an embezzlement scandal in which 4 million euros in funds meant for migrants were allegedly misappropriated.
Police in Italy have placed eight people including a priest under formal investigation following the arrest of a couple who ran a charity that supported migrants at a centre north of Naples.
Alfonso De Martino, a consultant for Caritas, and his fiancée, Rosa Carnevale, founders of the charity, A Spare Wing, were detained accused of “skimming” public money intended to assist migrants.
The couple allegedly claimed money for non-existent refugees and failed to pass on 2.50 euros in daily “pocket money". Prosecutors allege Mr De Martino and his partner also charged the state €345,000 euros for operations that were never carried out.
Prosecutors in Naples say they suspect the involvement of four Caritas migrant centres in the province of Salerno.
Fr Vincenzo Federico, head of Caritas in the Campania region, is under investigation for embezzlement but denied the accusations saying they were “surreal”. “I have always sought to work to alleviate the suffering of these people,” he said.
The investigation was triggered when Mr De Martino accused two Somali refugees of extortion when the men complained they had not been receiving their allowance.
The couple are accused of spending 733,000 euros of embezzled money to buy a company that sells mobile phone top-up cards, and 252,000 euros on properties in Milan and Pozzuoli was well as 6,000 euros on tickets for the 2012 Napoli-Chelsea Champions League clash.
Since 2011, Italy has spent about 2 billion euros on migrant reception facilities but has received hundreds of millions in assistance from the EU.
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