A former Italian mayor previously lauded by the liberal international press for his pro-migration policies has been handed a prison sentence of 13 years and two months after a court found him guilty of a slew of criminal charges, including aiding and abetting illegal migration into the country.
Domenico Lucano, the former mayor of Riace, a small commune in Italy’s southern Calabria region, was dealt the hefty sentence last Thursday after a court in Locri found him guilty on charges which included aiding and abetting illegal migration, abuse of office, criminal association, conspiracy, fraud against the State, embezzlement, and extortion, the Rome based newspaper La Repubblica reports. When Lucano was mayor of Riace, it was dubbed “the town of welcome” for migrants.
The court’s sentence, which was nearly twice as long as what prosecutors had requested, came as a shock to Lucano, who told the media: “I expected a full acquittal, I did not imagine anything like this.”
Lucano, known locally as Mimmo, was first placed under investigation by Italian authorities back in 2018 for irregularities in the management of the reception of asylum seekers, including organizing marriages of convenience between Italian nationals and migrants to help them remain in the country.
In addition to the prison sentence, the court ordered the former mayor to repay €500,000 ($580,000) in EU funding that was dispersed to the Italian government — funding that Lucano allegedly misused to enrich his inner circle of pro-migration NGOs. Prosecutors also accused Lucano of redirecting €5 million in government funds set aside for asylum seekers into private hands.
Leader of the right-wing populist League party Matteo Salvini, Italy’s interior minister at the time investigations against Lucano began, commented on the former mayor’s sentence, saying: “He illicitly made money from the management of immigrants… Mimmo Lucano, champion of radical chic.”
“The left is running candidates sentenced to 13 years in prison,” Salvini added, referring to Lucano’s bid for regional council in Calabria.
After hearing the succession of guilty verdicts, Lucano addressed the press outside of the courthouse in Locri.
“I dedicated my life to my ideals. I was against the mafia. I was mayor. I sided with the oppressed, with the refugees who arrived. I imagined myself contributing to the redemption of my land. It was an unforgettable experience, fantastic, but today I have to acknowledge that everything ends for me,” he said.
Lucano’s lawyers, Andrea Daqua and Guiliano Pisapia, have promised to appeal the court’s verdict as well as sentence. Lucano will remain out of prison until the court delivers a judgment on the appeals.
Following the sentence, the infamous migrant shuttling NGO “Sea Watch” took to social media to express their outrage at the court’s decision, writing: “The former mayor of Riace has restored life and a future to his city through hospitality and solidarity. We are alongside Mimmo Lucano and those who practice solidarity every day.”
This year, alone, Mario Draghi — the liberal-establishment leader of Italy’s so-called “technocratic government” — has overseen the arrival of some 45,000 illegal migrants, many of which have been brought by pro-migration NGOs.
Days ago, a 45-foot long fishing boat offloaded 686 illegal migrants from African and the Middle East at the Island of Lampedusa. According to the UNHCR, it was the highest capacity vessel to arrive at the island since 2016.