Florence Money Laundering Investigation

Florence restaurants under investigation for money laundering and other illegalities

A recent investigation by Italian law enforcement has determined that 31 businesses throughout the Florence city center were involved with a money laundering scheme over a decade in the making, according to a report from La Nazione. A complete map listing the names and locations of the implicated businesses has been published by Il Fatto Quotidiano.

Guardia di Finanza, the national police force responsible for investigating financial crimes, discovered that an Italo-Albanian crime organization had laundered over 10 million euros through restaurants, hotels, nightclubs and other businesses located throughout the city center. Nine suspects have been identified, including Ischia Calcio soccer team president Alessandro Bigi and former Fiorentina soccer team goalkeeper Giuseppe Taglialatela.

Bigi, who became president of the sports club at the end of last year, purchased Ischia Calcio from Taglialatela, its former president. A search decree issued by the public prosecutor’s office has claimed that the purchase was funded by illegally obtained assets from the aforementioned businesses. Bigi and Taglialatela are purported to have worked with Elouert Kamani, based in Albania, and other affiliates in a criminal conspiracy.

Il Fatto Quotidiano reports that the restaurant “Il Cavallino,” located in Florence’s Piazza della Signoria frequented by tourists, is suspected by investigators to be the first foray into the scheme upon its purchase in late 2012. A hidden camera planted by Guardia di Finanza at the restaurant was used to record evidence of illegal activity. Prosecutors are seeking to uncover the source of the money used to purchase the original restaurant, thereby tracing the scheme to its true financial origins.

Prosecutors claim that suspects maintained the practice by declining to provide receipts for customer purchases. They then used the resources acquired from tax evasion to expand their reach into the city’s businesses, eventually acquiring a total of 13.5 million euros through their ownership or rental of implicated properties.  Many employees were paid under the table.

The investigation into the extent of the scheme remains ongoing. SCICO, Guardia di Finanza’s organized crime branch, is examining businesses in Florence, Livorno and Naples in search of further affiliations with organized financial crimes.  (Tara Monastesse)