Wednesday is market day. For decades, Luino’s traditional mercato has been one of the most famous landmarks on Lake Maggiore. Most visitors do not suspect that when they are strolling through the picturesque alleyways, just a few kilometers away, an entirely different kind of business is flourishing. Drug dealers camp in the forests of Valcuvia and Valganna, selling cocaine, heroin and hashish by the kilo – including Swiss addicts.
“From here, dealers go to their hiding places and bring goods to customers,” says Alessandro Volpini (49). The head of Luino Carabinieri points to a steep path that leads from the hairpin to the forest. His people have moved on. They search the underground for tents, fireplaces, provisions. Blick accompanies the officers through Thicke.
The leafy ground is scanned for weapons with a metal detector. The excavated hollows are used by dealers as a place to sit and sleep. “He kept himself in the woods for several days,” says Volpini. The dealer is gone. But he left his jacket. Searches Carabinieri bags hoping for a cell phone, drugs, personal photos. Men get bags, a tin can, campfire lighter, and Arabic tea.
Moroccans were tortured for more than seven hours
This place is a brutal crime scene, says Alessandro Volpini. A few weeks ago, a Moroccan man (25) was tied to a tree and tortured for more than seven hours. “They whip him, break his hand and try to cut off his ear,” the commander continues, “so that he obeys his masters.” In the end, the victims threw the seriously injured man out of the car. Took his belongings with him.
After a while, an Italian (40) with spots all over his body arrived at Luino’s hospital. Moroccans hung him from a tree near his wrists and thrashed him for more than three hours. When the branch broke, the man managed to escape. The investigation quickly leads to the tyrants. In mid-July, three men were arrested in Pavia and charged with robbery and aggravated assault.
Violence has increased this year
The commander follows with great concern what is happening in the woods of Luino. Because, according to Alessandro Volpini, violence is on the rise. “It started about five years ago,” he says, “in the first operation in the Maghreb, we arrested about 20 people and seized seven kilos of drugs. In 2019-2020 we also found dozens of weapons in the forest. Rifles, pistols , gun. The gangs started defending their territory.”
The situation has calmed down in the lockdown. But violence explodes in 2022. There was an exchange of bullets in February. “In the last four months we have arrested 24 criminals, 23 Moroccans and one Italian,” says deputy commander Marco Cariola (50). come from the Moroccan region.” Her Italian homeland is the Milan hinterland.
The Carabinieri show a presence in the jungles, wanting to harass the Moroccans and eventually intimidate them. Tourists can also help, according to the police chief. « The forests of Luino are a popular hiking area. Locals, but also foreign guests, should keep their eyes open and report biennially, perhaps even photographing the license plates of suspicious vehicles and sending them to the police,” says Alessandro Volpini.