Sicily’s Anti-Extortion spokesman is Arrested while Extorting 100k Euros
In one of the most delicious news items ever reported since I’ve been living in Sicily, it turns out that one of the main men in charge of combating extortion in Sicily has just been arrested… for extortion. It was “Aggravated extortion,” in fact, which means he used threats and violence as well.
So who exactly was arrested anyway?
His name is Roberto Helg and he was the head of Palermo Chamber of Commerce, called Confindustria. Under his auspices, in 2005, the Chamber of Commerce opened a special office where victims of extortion and racketeering could report that they were under threat and, supposedly, receive real legal protection.
He was also head of Gesap, the company which manages Palermo Airport.
What was he doing?
He was recorded extorting 100,000 Euros from a cake-maker called Santi Palazzolo who simply wanted to renew the rental agreement for his cake shop at Palermo Airport.
Little did Helg know that cake-man Palazzolo had already gone to the Carabinieri (Italy’s paramilitary police force), and was wired with recording devices and spy-cameras all over him like a Christmas tree. (They used plenty because Italian technology sometimes has quirky moments.)
Mr. Helg was arrested with a cheque for 70 thousand euros in his pocket, whilst trousering another 30 thousand in cash. One assumes he has capacious pockets, because a wad of 30 grand is pretty fat.
When the police arrested him (and what a pity I wasn’t in Palermo eating some cake when that happened) he denied everything, even when they tugged a great wad out of his pockets.
Eventually they played him the tape of his negotiations, and all of a sudden, he spilled his guts. He named names, he drew them a Harvard MBA-standard organigram of the criminal organisation behind him, and he proffered proof of multiple other crimes.
See the arrest on film!
Follow this link so see the arrest, which is just as dramatic as an episode of Law and Order or even Castle. It has spy cameras, it has wailing police sirens and, as Sicily’s leading newspaper Giornale di Sicilia points out, the only thing lacking is the theme tune from The Godfather Movies.
What about his trial?
Helg’s defence lawyer chose to step down yesterday. He said he made a vow long ago to defend victims of extortion, and defending Helg would be “incompatible” with that.
The silliest thing of all?
A few days ago, one of Helg’s Confindustria buddies called Antonello Montante was arrested for being in the Mafia. Helg publicly spoke out in his defence, offering solidarity.
Didn’t it cross his mind that he was going to look rather suspicious?