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Italian anti-Mafia magistrates left without petrol

dpa German Press Agency
Published: Tuesday October 31, 2006

Catania, Italy- Anti-Mafia magistrates working in the Sicilian city of Catania have tendered their resignations because they do not have enough money to buy paper or petrol, daily La Repubblica reported Tuesday. The city's chief prosecutor, Mario Busacca, says he has asked his colleagues to stay on but warned that their fight against the Mafia risked suffering a serious setback.

"They have cut our funds by 50 per cent," Busacca said, "but they should at least send us some paper and petrol."

Catania's 11 prosecutors are among the latest victims of the government's attempts to reign in public spending in order to reduce the country's debt, which is the highest among eurozone members.

Their office is already having to do without fresh supplies of stationary and office equipment and its debts have surged to 70,000 euros (90,000 dollars). Petrol stations and mechanics are now refusing to offer them credit, La Repubblica reported.

The magistrates now say they will refuse to use their own money to buy petrol or fix their cars, meaning they will no longer attend court proceedings taking place outside Catania.

Only two weeks ago, Busacca's office launched a major anti-Mafia operation that led to the arrest of nine suspect mobsters.

Magistrates said the arrests prevented the imminent murder of a member of a rival gang, according to information provided by a turncoat.

One veteran magistrate, Ignazio Fonzo, complained that his office computer was broken and that he had to buy a laptop using his own money.

"We asked the national Anti-Mafia office for help, and all they sent us was 200 euros worth of petrol vouchers. This is just a drop in the ocean," Fonzo told La Repubblica.

© 2006 dpa German Press Agency