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Father Christmas cop nabs suspected Mafia collector

Undercover police officer pounces after handing out sweets

24 December, 13:52
Father Christmas cop nabs suspected Mafia collector (ANSA) - Catania, December 24 - An Italian police officer has given a suspected Mafia protection-money collector a nasty Christmas surprise by arresting him dressed as Santa Claus. The undercover Carabinieri officer detained Salvatore Politini, 37, shortly after he allegedly took protection money from a shopkeeper who had been a victim of Cosa Nostra extortion for over a decade.

The fake Santa gave out sweets to children just outside the store in a village near Catania where the money changed hands.

The officer dropped some candy just as Politini, a suspected member of the Santapaola clan, was about to board his getaway car and then pounced to make the arrest. He was aided by other undercover officers, who arrived shortly after. The extortion victim did not know he had been placed under surveillance, but admitted paying protection money after the sting.

The Carabinieri had placed hidden cameras inside and outside the shop.

The officer had been dressing up as Santa and distributing candy on the sidewalk for several days.

The victim had been paying the mob a monthly protection fee of 260 euros for over 10 years, judicial sources said.

At the time of his arrest Politini was found with another 200 euros in cash, as well as a valuable ceramic dish and a panettone Christmas cake, the fruits of extortion at a neighborhood bar, Carabinieri said. Italian police have staged a series of successful operations over the last two years that have hit the Sicilian Mafia and its Neapolitan and Calabrian cousins, the Camorra and the 'Ndrangheta.

These include last month's arrest of top Camorra mobster and convicted murderer Antonio Iovine, whose capture after 14 years on the run was celebrated by police like that of Cosa Nostra boss of bosses Bernardo Provenzano four years ago.