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CRIME

Spain sticks by ‘Mafia’ restaurant chain

A request by the Italian government to get the Spanish crime-inspired restaurant chain ‘Mafia’ to change its name has been rejected, Italian media have reported.

Spain sticks by 'Mafia' restaurant chain
The Spanish franchise-model business last year grew to 34 restaurants nationwide since opening in 2000. Screen grab: YouTube

Following an appeal from Sicilian MP Claudio Fava, whose own father was killed by Cosa Nostra, the Sicilian mafia, the Italian government requested that the controversially named Spanish eatery either change its name or be forced to close.

However the request was not greeted favourably by Spanish authorities, who responded saying that the word “mafia” was now so widely used across the world that it did not necessarily relate to the Italian criminal organization.

They added that there were several brands containing the word “mafia” which were not only registered in Spain, but also in other EU countries.

Nevertheless, the foreign ministry’s undersecretary Benedetto della Vedova has assured Fava, who is an MP in Catania for the Left Ecology Freedom party, that the government would also contact the Spanish Embassy in Italy with its request. 

Italy’s Il Giornale newspaper slammed the restaurant chain for its “bad taste”.

“But it’s not even that original,” wrote the paper. “Considering that several Italian establishments are named after the so-called honorary company across the world.

“It’s the fault of a lack of imagination of those who run them, but also, disgracefully, of the great notoriety that the criminals from our South are earning abroad.”

A rare success story during the country's economic crisis, the Spanish franchise-model business last year grew to 34 restaurants nationwide since opening in 2000.

In an article printed in La Repubblica newspaper in February 2014, Attilio Bolzoni, a writer on organized crime, highlighted the irony of signing up for La Mafia’s loyalty club while members of various mafia clans carried out their activities in Spanish cities including Malaga, Madrid, Barcelona and Toledo.

"Imagine what would happen in Spain if someone in Italy opened a restaurant dedicated to the (Basque) terrorist group Eta," speculated the resigned-sounding journalist.

"The word mafia is a brand that is immediately recognized, it’s a call to attention and everyone remembers it,” the firm’s public relations manager Pablo Martínez told the Italian journalist at the time.

"We didn't create it, we just use it."

Martínez stressed that images of violence were prohibited in the firm's restaurants and that the model was the mafia of the movies like The Godfather.

"We apologize to those Italians who feel offended (by the name) but that’s not our intention."

The article caused an immediate reaction in Italy with Marco Anzaldi, an MP with Italy’s Democratic Party, calling for an official complaint to be lodged.

In August last year, a Sicilian politician and anti-mafia commissioner lambasted restaurants in Denmark for naming pizzas and sandwiches after a notorious crime gang after stumbling across an Al Capone pizza in Copenhagen.

He said the dishes "exploited the worst stereotypes about southern Italy and criminals".

SEE ALSO: Spain's 'mafia' eateries spark Italian outrage

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CRIME

Spain police start wearing bodycams to boost security

Spanish police have begun wearing body cameras to record their interactions with the public in a move aimed at ensuring greater security that is gaining ground in Europe and the US.

Spain police start wearing bodycams to boost security

The interior ministry said the bodycam was launched Monday and would be “rolled out on a gradual basis to all police officers”, without saying how many were involved in the initial stages.

Spain’s TVE public television said the tiny cameras were being attached to the officers’ uniforms and could be activated either manually or automatically.

The main Spanish police union JUPOL hailed the move on Twitter, saying it was in response to “a request that the union has been making”.

“It will guarantee security, both for us to avoid any kind of misrepresentation of our interventions, as well as for the public, who will be able to clearly see the police’s professionalism and that there is no abuse of power nor excesses,” union spokesman Pablo Pérez told TVE.

Forces in Europe and the United States are increasingly turning to such technology to boost transparency following a string of fatal shootings and other claims against police over the past decade.

“The cameras are being used under public safety protocols in order to record everything that happens in the event of an unwarranted offence during an operation,” Spanish Interior Minister Fernando Grande Marlaska told TVE ahead of the rollout.

“If they are activated, it is to guarantee security and really be transparent so that the officers’ actions can be seen and checked,” the minister said.

“This means security for both the police and the public,” he added, suggesting that in time, they would also be available to Spain’s Guardia Civil rural police force.

France began trialling bodycams, known as “pedestrian cameras”, in 2013
before a gradual rollout in 2015 in a move welcomed by police, but greeted with scepticism by rights groups who said there was no guarantee they would be always activated.

Police in London and New York also began pilot schemes in 2014 with credit-card-sized cameras clipped onto their uniforms with the technology gradually deployed over the following years.

But the cameras have had mixed success. The absence of any legal obligation governing their use can also limit their scope to uncover police misconduct.

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