Two paintings by Spanish great Salvador Dali feature in the collection of 125 works seized from mob businessman Gioacchino Campolo, called the ‘King of Videopoker’ after he built up a vast fortune by running tampered slot machines. The paintings were seized in 2010 from Campolo, who was accused of helping fund the powerful ‘Ndrangheta organized crime group in his native Calabria and was found guilty in 2011 of criminal association, usury and extortion. The 77-year old, who is wheelchair-bound, is serving his 16-year jail sentence under house arrest due to his age and health. He had 320 million euro in assets and owned houses in Paris, Rome and throughout Reggio Calabria.
The ‘Ndrangheta – whose name comes from the Greek for courage – is described by Italian police as the most active, richest and most powerful crime syndicate in Europe. With a turnover of billions of euros a year, it is particularly notorious for drug trafficking and corrupt construction contracts.
Campolo was the business front man for the powerful De Stefano mafia family – several members of which featured on Italy’s list of most-wanted fugitives – and he built up his collection as a way to launder the proceeds from his slot-machine empire.
Not all turned out to be good investments: 22 of the paintings were discovered to be forgeries. Reggio Calabria mayor Giuseppe Falcomata said the exhibition meant giving back to the people works of art which are a collective patrimony.
After decades of fighting Cosa Nostra in Sicily, the Camorra in Naples and the ‘Ndrangheta in Calabria, the Italian state has a large portfolio of confiscated assets, including some 3,000 businesses, 12,000 buildings and over 2 billion euro in frozen funds. For the last decade or so Italy has been working to return the assets to the public arena though a “social re-use” programme.