Italian police have arrested a Sicilian consultant who made his living by helping victims of extortion. The man, according to authorities, embezzled public funds and threatened his clients for additional money.
The head of the Sicilian Anti-extortion Association, Salvatore C., has been arrested by Italy's financial police for allegedly committing extortion himself, officials said on Sunday.
Italy's Guardia di Finanza said the suspect was also charged with embezzlement and fraud, according to the DPA news agency.
The suspect made his reputation by helping victims of extortion and loan-sharking in the region of Italy dominated by the Mafia. The campaigner presented his activity as "a job" to his clients, pledging to help protect them and ensure they received compensation from the state.
Read more: 'Mafia tour' angers victims
According to investigators, however, the anti-extortion expert also demanded illegal payments from his clients. He would use intimidation tactics on victims already targeted by extortionists, and threaten to drop the case midway unless he received a 3 to 5 percent cut of the likely compensation money, Italian daily la Reppublica reports, citing police sources.
Blackmailing relatives of Mafia victim
Italian police claim that Salvatore C. demanded bribes in at least three cases, including from a manager of a bookshop, when he said that paying him a 3 percent cut would speed up the compensation procedure. On a separate occasion, he received an envelope containing €1,500 ($1,705) from a family of a victim killed by the Mafia, after he threatened to stop his assistance as they were set to be granted additional funds from the state. Finally, a foreign national who owned bar in Sicily was forced to pay €3,000 under similar circumstances.
The authorities also believe that the head of the anti-extortion NGO embezzled some €37,000 in public grants for his personal use. In another incident that drew the attention of the police, Salvatore C. allegedly advised a person to get a false diagnosis in order to get more money.
The consultant has been put under house arrest.
Note: Deutsche Welle follows the German press code, which advocates protecting the privacy of suspects who have not been convicted and encourages us not to reveal their full names.