On 30 August 2013, the Air Coastal Guard detected a ship off the coat of Sicily (Italy), presumably transporting irregular migrants, and towing a smaller boat. In time, the two ships separated, with the smaller navigating towards Italy and the larger one in the opposite direction. On the morning of 31 August, la Guardia di Finanza intercepted the smaller boat, having on board 110 foreigners, all men, all Egyptians, except for one Syrian. At least five migrants were heard by the criminal police, as suspects in the contravvenzione of irregular immigration. It resulted that migrants paid between 3000 and 3500 Euro for the trip. They were taken by bus to Alessandria (Egypt) where they stayed in a house in the countryside. After some days, they were transferred to the seaside, wherefrom, in small groups, they boarded inflatables. Following a one day trip, they again transferred to a large boat that towed a smaller one. After 24 hours of navigation, the migrants were passed to this latter ship, where there were four crew men. It was there that the migrants were rescued from by Italian authorities. The larger boat left towards Egypt. During the travel, the smugglers deprived the migrants of their money, mobile phones, and other possessions, mis-treated and threatened them. From the statement of the migrants as well as another accused resulted that:
- the defendant had held a position of control in the smaller boat, giving instructions, making sure order was maintained, and driving it;
- the actual leader was on board of the larger vessel that travelled back to Egypt;
- both the defendant and his partners (minors) had taken such positions in exchange for not paying their “tickets” (app. 2500 Euro).
The Court concluded for the responsibility of the defendant in procuring illegal entry into Italy through a transnational organised criminal group. The Court considered there to be aggravating circumstances given (i) the intent of obtaining a financial or other material benefit, (ii) more than five people were smuggled, (iii) more than 3 people were engaged in the criminal act, (iv) the life and safety of migrants was endangered. The Court also refused the application of attenuating circumstances as it saw no sign of regret nor evidence contradicting its understanding of the events.
Against this background, the Court convicted the defendant for procuring illegal entry into Italy through an organised criminal group. However, it absolved him of
the offence of criminal conspiracy, as it could not conclude for the existence of the necessary intrinsic associative bondage rather than an occasional, non-indispensable participation in a criminal act of the organised criminal group.The accused was thus convicted of aggravated procurement of illegal entry.
For further details see infra under “Commentary”.