Messina Denaro relative nabbed in medical fraud op

'Bloody Money' probe into dialysis racket

Messina Denaro relative nabbed in medical fraud op

Catania, October 18 - Finance police on Tuesday arrested five people including a relative of fugitive Cosa Nostra boss Matteo Messina Denaro in their so-called 'Bloody Money' operation into the alleged re-routing of dialysis patients from public to private facilities. Francesco Messina Denaro, 55, known as Gianfranco Messina, is the Sicily buyer for Diaverum Italia Srl, a Milan-area company that manages dialysis centers across Europe. His grandfather Francesco was brother to the fugitive boss' grandfather Salvatore, prosecutors said. The other suspects are medical businessmen and hospital managers. Former Diaverum executive Gianpaolo Barone Lumaga, who was CEO until February this year, is under investigation. The operation has so far uncovered evidence that 40 patients were deviated to private facilities, but investigators believe this is just the tip of the iceberg. A year of dialysis costs 40,000 euros, prosecutors said. "Officials in public facilities... tried outright to reduce the flow of patients to the clinics under their care and to deviate it towards private companies, in whose management they held direct or indirect interests," Catania Prosecutor Carmelo Zuccaro told reporters at a news conference. "They did so with utter unscrupulousness, considering the patient... a subject on whose health they could turn a profit". The damage wrought "against the image and efficiency of the national health service is enormous - the damage wrought to competitiveness in the private sector is just as serious," Zuccaro said. Parent company Diaverum operates in 20 countries, employs 9,000 people, has 29,000 patients in its care and business volume of over 580 million euros. Messina Denaro, 53, has not been publicly seen in more than 20 years. An informant in 2014 helped Italian authorities update their ideas of the Mafia boss's appearance, including the fact he no longer wears eyeglasses and his dark hair has receded. The Cosa Nostra No. 1, whose home fief is in Agrigento, has been a fugitive since 1993 and according to Interpol he is among the 10 most wanted criminals in the world.

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