Three held in protection racket in Germany
Two Italians were among three persons detained on suspicion of demanding protection money from Italian restaurants in Berlin, police said.
2 January 2008
Berlin (dpa) - Two Italians were among three persons detained on suspicion of demanding protection money from Italian restaurants in Berlin, police in the German capital said on Wednesday.
The trio was picked up on New Year's Eve after a tip off from owners of some of the 40 restaurants that received threatening letters in December 2007, police spokesman Bernhard Schodrowski said.
"Protection rackets don't work in Berlin," he said.
An Italian aged 26 was ordered to be held in custody along with a stateless man of the same age. A 63-year-old Italian was released after police questioning.
Following the slaying of six Italians in a mob-style execution in August, Italian restaurant owners launched an initiative to combat protection rackets and other Mafia activities in Germany.
Dozens of the capital's 300 Italian restaurants pledged to support the campaign, coordinated by the Union of Italians in the World (UIM).
The August killings in the western city of Duisburg were linked to a 15-year vendetta involving two families in the Mafia-like 'Ndrangheta crime syndicate in the Calabria region of Italy.
The restaurant owners alerted police in mid-December after receiving written demands for protection money. The letters warned of "painful" consequences should the owners refuse to make "a spontaneous contribution" to the "Holy Guardian."
Police said one of the restaurants in the suburb of Schoeneberg was firebombed on December 26, but no one was injured.
When police detained the three suspects they found a firearm and incriminating letters in their possession, a police spokesman said.