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December 5, 2003


From: Agenzia Giornalistica Italia (English Version), Italy - Dec 5, 2003

(AGI) - Bologna, 5 Dec - You can find them in front of restaurants, on street-corners, on trains, holding gadgets of all kinds in their hands - from keyrings to lighters, from brooches to small soft toys - and holding up a small "I am a deaf-mute, help me" card. Someone might have assumed that they were bluffing. But they are not. These are deaf-mute people brought to Italy, but also to Spain, France and Germany, from the former USSR with tourist visas and obliged, after much harrassment, to sell little objects. The net proceeds that this army of sellers (at least 5-600 in Italy, up to 2,000 in Europe if you caculate those recruited in Spain, France and Germany) brought into the coffers of the organisation made up almost exclusively of deaf-mutes, has been calculated as being of around the region of 1,5 million euros a year, of which 500.000 euro are destined to the leaders of the group and the rest divided up between the national leader and the local leaders. The gang was organised with a pyramid- like structure, with leader-heavies whose task it is to "convince" the most unruly and least "productive" of the sellers to work harder and contribute more to the 'mission', that of bringing 2-3000 euro into the pockets of the organisation every month. Amongst the most "convincing" arguments at their disposal are: obligatory abortions, beating people up, and cigarettes turned out on workers' arms. (AGI) 051620 DIC 03

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