Italian police target pilgrim hotel rip-offs
Hotels fined 300,000 euros, six closed21 April, 17:38
(ANSA) - Rome, April 21 - Rome police have closed six hotels and issued more than 300,000 euros' worth of fines in a blitz against tourist rip-offs ahead of the beatification of the late Pope John Paul 11.
More than 60 tourism businesses, including hostels, bed and breakfasts and other low-cost accommodation facilities catering to pilgrims, have been inspected by police.
Police have suspended 22 licences from five to 30 days while some proprietors were sanctioned for adding up to eight beds in a space measuring only 15 metres.
The blitz is aimed at protecting the hundreds of thousands of Catholic pilgrims expected to arrive in Rome next week to celebrate the beatification, as well as tour operators and hotels that abide by the law.
Police identified potential rip-offs from the Internet and also targeted 'low-cost' accommodation near Rome's central Termini station and others near the Vatican.
In March an American tour guide was accused of promoting an Internet sales scam in which unsuspecting pilgrims were charged around 165 euros for a false ticket granting them access to the free beatification ceremony to be held in St. Peter's Square on May 1.
Vatican officials also sought an "ethical pact" with the Rome hoteliers' association in which members promised not to raise prices for the events.