Travelling on Italy’s autostrade, or motorways, can be quite an expensive business, for example for truck drivers the cost from northern Italy to to costs around 70 Euros, but in another classic Italian scam, budget tickets were made available.
Yesterday, Sunday morning, just over 250 heavy goods vehicles or TIRs as they are known here, were impounded by police after the great Italian autostrada ticket fiddle came to light.
A section of Italy’s most in the news at the moment mafia , the camorra, were apparently behind this scam.
Trucks entering the autostrada network in northern Italy simply contacted the distributors of these dodgy tickets while they were nearing Naples and then picked up them up from services areas and telephone booths. Cash was left by the truckers in exchange for the tickets, which were often secreted in cigarette packets. The tricky truckers then only ended up paying for a short tract of motorway, saving themselves around 50 Euros on each run in the process.
What happened was that tickets were stolen from two ticket booths that controlled entry to the autostrada near Naples. Then the availability of the low price tickets was made, er, public. Viral marketing anyone?
In these times high fuel prices word of these reduced rate tricky tickets must have spread fast and a large number trucking companies throughout Italy became aware of the discounted tolls, and signed up to benefit from the illicit savings. Indeed, some 400 hauliers have come under investigation as part of inquiries into this sophisticated scheme.
Recycling – Mafia Style
Used tickets were also ‘cleaned’ by the enterprising tricksters so that they could be recycled and used countless times. Investigations into this devious plan had been going on for some years apparently.
Reports estimate that the private company which runs Italy’s toll motorway network lost hundreds of thousands of Euros in income as a result of this fraudulent scheme. Nine people have been arrested so far, with a further 160 odd still under investigation.
How the Scam Went up in Smoke, possibly
It is not yet all that clear just how Italy’s police managed to discover this very well planned and executed scam.
One may speculate that a sharp eyed Italian copper desperate for a smoke could not believe his luck when he spotted a packet of cigarettes in phone kiosk. Then upon opening this packet of cigarettes from heaven, or hell, depending on your point of view, he or she discovered that the packet contained a small and unexpected extra. Investigations then proceeded, with the net result that the intricate little mafia run scheme went up in smoke!