Archive for Guardia di Finanza
Some of you might have watched the opening ceremony of the Olympics in Rio last Friday. I liked it a lot, for many reasons, but that’s not the point. If you didn’t like it, we can still be friends.
But I think we can agree that it had more than five moving parts, which is the maximum (I’ve just decided) that I can keep track of, much less control. So may I give a huge shout-out to the director and executive producer, Marco Balich? I’d have done it anyway, but guess what? He’s Venetian.
I suppose I shouldn’t be all that impressed; I discover that he directed the opening and closing of the Winter Olympics in Torino (2006) and the closing of the London Olympics (2012). Also aspects of the Olympics in Beijing and Sochi. He spent, all told, three years working on this five-hour extravaganza — two years designing, and one year living in Rio. But he was also, I now dimly recall, the director of Carnival in 2008.
And here’s what he had to say: “Designing the opening of the Games was simpler than the Carnival of Venice.” He said he was joking.
“An event like the Olympics requires a complex preparatory phase, of negotiations, bureaucracy, long stretches of time and also the unforeseeable. But I have to say that in Rio we found better conditions than anyone could imagine.”
The journalist interviewing him mentioned the “completely Brazilian placid resignation that perhaps greatly resembles the Venetian.” I don’t remember having noticed any particularly PLACID resignation. Though if we had the samba maybe nobody would care.
From a man accustomed to working with millions — I refer to money, as well as humans — that’s a very nice thing to hear. So if he wants to joke about how hard it is to organize in Venice, never mind, because everyone knows that working on your home turf is not only hard, but usually an Olympic-level exercise in ingratitude.
And speaking of money, the Gazzettino of today reports that in one year, the Guardia di Finanza at the airport has recovered 15 million euros in cash which were outward bound, by means of a thousand assorted passengers. The article says the cash was hidden in “the most unusual places — the heels of shoes, and in bras.” Not ever having had more than the allowed 10,000 euros in cash to carry from point A to B, I’m probably not an expert on the subject. But I still would have considered shoes and bras to be the very first place to look, even if I didn’t have a beagle backing me up. I guess I must be smarter than the people who got caught.
Sharp-eyed reader Janys Hyde, who has lived in Venice twice as long as I have, read my report on Ricky and his mania for dropping things off the Accademia Bridge. She sent me a copy of the story as it was recounted in an article in 2011, which ran in the Nuova Venezia. I wanted to add these particulars to the sketch (it was all I knew at the time) I wrote a few days ago.
Here it is, translated by me:
May 31, 1973
Two finance officers and the folly in the Grand Canal
It’s May 31 of 1973, toward 2:50 AM, when the boat that was in service, with the Commandant of the Operative Naval Section of the Guardia di Finanza, Lieutenant Carmine Scarano, and two finanzieri, Alberto Calascione and Vincenzo Di Stefano, is traveling along the Grand Canal on their way to an intervention, passing under the Accademia Bridge.
A few individuals launch from the bridge a slab of travertine which strikes the boat and the two finanzieri dead center. They were moments of terror; the only one to remain unhurt is the Commandant who immediately realizes that the boat, without anyone steering, is heading for the embankment.
With a rapid movement he gains control of the boat and stops it, perceiving at this point the lifeless body of finanziere Calascione and hearing the cries and groans from finanziere Di Stefano who is wounded on the arm.
The Commandant manages to give the alarm and call for help, but unfortunately there is nothing that could be done for Alberto Calascione who, because of the grave injuries to his head, dies shortly after his arrival at the hospital.
Finanziere Di Stefano is kept in the hospital, his physical condition improves, but the memory of what has happened will never fade.
Alberto Calascione and Vincenzo Di Stefano were recognized as Victims of Duty (“wounded in the line of duty”) and of organized crime.
In various editions of Memory Day that have followed (I am still on the track of this commemoration; the paper uses the English phrase which is hard to back-translate into holidays I recognize), Vincenzo Di Stefano has never missed the occasion to commemorate, at the place of the attack, his colleague Alberto.
As I have said (many times), riding the vaporetto, while frequently annoying, or crowded or cold or suffocatingly hot or drenching — being crushed into a mass of people riding outside in the rain is so invigorating — it is also prime territory to see people we know.
I like this. I’m so used to it, either seeing someone I know, or at least someone I can identify, that I wasn’t even aware of it until one day when I got home from a large circuit doing errands more or less around the city. As I walked over our bridge, it suddenly struck me. “Weird!” I thought. “I didn’t see even one person that I know.” That it occurred, and that I noticed it, were both clear signs that I had passed through another airlock into the depths of Venice.
Usually, though, we run into, or past, people Lino knows. Which means “has known.” Forever.
Last night we were trundling home on the faithful #1 vaporetto. Now that Carnival’s over, the ratio of locals to tourists has increased again, briefly, in favor of the former. So it didn’t start out as surprising when Lino recognized someone.
Then the saga began to unfold.
It went like this:
A matronly, moderately zaftig woman was the last to come inside. As she sailed majestically along the aisle, she left the doors behind her wide open. It’s fairly cold these days, so it always astonishes me that someone doesn’t connect the concepts of “warmth” and “closed doors.”
So even though we were several rows back, I got up to close them, and sat down again next to Lino making the little huffy sound that escapes me when I fulfill this task for someone too (fill in appropriate word here) to close them.
“And she’s a Venetian,” he remarked. This sometimes happens, which makes it even harder for me to understand. But that’s not the point here.
“You know her?” I offered the usual rhetorical question.
“Sure,” he said. “She lived in my old neighborhood” (near campo San Vio). “Her brother was a really close friend of Ricky.”
And Ricky was…..?
“He’s the one who killed the finanzier (member of the Guardia di Finanza) by dropping a stone from the Accademia Bridge.”
I stared at him.
“He was a very sketchy character,” Lino went on. “He was all involved in drugs and smuggling and I don’t know what. So he really had it in for the Finanza.
“So one night he called the headquarters of the Finanza on the Giudecca, all worked up, saying ‘Somebody’s set fire to a boat in the canal! You’ve got to come quick!'”
So two agents on duty leaped into one of their fast launches and zoomed across the Giudecca Canal and up the Grand Canal.
“Meanwhile, Ricky had taken a loose piece of marble” (one of the rectangular slabs of Istrian stone which delineate each step on a stone bridge here). “He carried it up to the top of the Accademia Bridge and waited for them to pass. At just the moment they started under the bridge, he let the stone fall. It killed one of the agents right there.”
Naturally he was found, tried, and put away. “Sixteen years in the criminal insane asylum,” Lino said.
“I saw him around the neighborhood after he’d gotten out. He was walking along with a beer bottle in his hand. He started to cross the Accademia Bridge, and as he went up, he put his hand out over the rail and casually let the bottle drop.
“Sixteen years, and they hadn’t cured him of anything.
“Still, he had had an extenuating circumstance. Because once a long time before, he had jumped out his first-floor apartment window into the canal and saved somebody who was drowning.
“If he hadn’t have done that, they’d have given him life.”
If anything has ever happened to you which was totally not your fault, but for which you are going to be massively penalized, read on.
We know that air travel can sometimes seem like a penalty in itself. Missed connections, or canceled flights, or harassed cabin staff, or getting stuck sitting next to a drunk, just-divorced cement mason whose wife got the dog. Oh, and lost luggage too.
Yes, if you check your portmanteau you may have worries bigger than crying babies and overpriced beer. Especially if you’re a 25-year-old Serbian tourist who may not have developed the finely honed instincts of a frequent flyer when it comes to finding the best way to resolve any problems.
I refer specifically to a young man whose initials are D.V. (perhaps you know him?) who was flying from Ankara to Venice via Vienna a few days ago.
He checked his bag. But his bag did not arrive on the carousel at Marco Polo Airport when he did. Obviously he couldn’t know which leg of the itinerary had snagged his valise, but he wasn’t happy.
So far, so normal: Long trip, check. Being tired, check. Huge annoyance on arrival, check. So he went to report it, and also made it clear just how hugely annoyed he was. Do you people not know how to do your jobs, fer cripes’ sakes? Or however they say it in Serbian.
Good news! They found it! It only took four days, but they got it. They notified him and he went straight to the airport to claim it.
Bad news! They looked inside it! And there, all bundled up safe and sound behind a fake panel, right where he’d stashed it, they — the Guardia di Finanza — found 2300 grams (five pounds) of pure heroin. Street value: One million euros ($1,369,480, or 107,171,684 Serbian dinars).
Back to his question about job skills: I’d say that while the baggage handlers at one of the three airports were pretty incompetent (including the fact that, unlike baggage handlers in many places, they didn’t look inside that lonely little suitcase sitting there all by itself), the gendarmes at Marco Polo were at the top of their game.
So now D.V. has been arrested for international drug trafficking and is looking at a probable 8-20 years in the bastille. Plus he doesn’t have the doojee anymore, which is now a whole lot more irritating to his employers than it is to him. It is a situation compared to which sitting next to a depressed cement mason would begin to seem, as they say here, a Carnival ball.
This is at least an interesting twist on a depressingly routine subject; drug runners arriving at the airport usually have stomachs full of condoms crammed with cocaine. The latest, a few days ago, was a certain M.R.A., a 19-year-old Pole, who was caught with nearly 2 kilos, or 4 pounds, of the stuff inside him. Or else you’ve made the journey via ferry from Greece, origami’ed inside somebody’s vehicle with no food, water or air for two days.
Just a note about the Polish kid: He was admittedly waving a fistful of red flags, to so speak. He was visibly nervous. He flew in from Istanbul. He had no luggage. He had very little cash. His roundtrip ticket was booked for a very short stay in Venice. Is he coming to visit his dying aunt? Only if she’s in the next cell.
So many, many questions and thoughts roil through my brain on a cold, foggy afternoon here. Such as:
While it’s obvious that attempting to board a plane (or two) carrying heroin in your hand luggage would be infinitely stupider than checking it, I keep wondering why his employers wanted him to fly. Aren’t there trains? Rental cars? Dogsleds?
And: If he had to check it — which he did — why didn’t he borrow the defensive stratagem of photographer I once knew, and stencil the outside of the suitcase UROLOGY DEPARTMENT VISNJIC (or whatever his last name is) HOSPITAL?
And: Does he realize how very, very lucky he is to be in jail now, where maybe his extremely irritated employers can’t get at him? He must be doing laps around the rosary hoping to get the maximum sentence.
If he wasn’t religious before, I bet he is now.