MILAN May 15 Police in the Italian regions of
Lombardy and Sicily arrested 15 people and put four management
offices of supermarket chain Lidl under state control on Monday
as part of a swoop on a mafia gang.
Four of the German company's offices, which manage around
200 shops, were taken over as investigators probed links with
the Laudani crime family, police said in a statement.
Lidl Italia said it was completely innocent regarding the
accusations, was not under investigation itself and had offered
to help authorities.
Sicily's "Cosa Nostra" mafia has weakened in recent years
but Monday's arrests unveil the latest example of criminal
groups spreading their tentacles from traditional southern
fiefdoms to infiltrate businesses in the wealthier north.
In the case of Lidl, the mobsters allegedly used their
influence to obtain contracts for work like warehouse logistics
or kitting out new shops, the arrest warrant issued by a Milan
"This was a case of managers at Lidl Italia who were in
charge of contracting work being permanently subjugated, so as
to ensure projects were assigned favourably to the companies
controlled by the associates," the warrant read.
Contracts assigned this way did "serious damage to the
assets of the contracting company", it continued. The court has
taken over management of the four offices for six months.
Among those arrested were a woman who works for city hall
and is suspected of corruption in relation to a public contract,
and a man who previously worked for the provincial government
and is suspected of influence peddling.
The court also placed under state control the private
company responsible for security at the Milan law courts, due to
suspected links to the Laudani clan.
When areas of a business are placed under the control of a
court, judges take over management for a defined period of time.
In such cases, the court often appoints temporary managers.
No details were released on how many Lidl employees work in
the four management offices or if their day-to-day activities
will be affected during the period of state control.
(Reporting by Isla Binnie and Manuela D'Alessandro, editing by