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Wednesday, 28 August, 2002, 17:55 GMT 18:55 UK
Italy cracks down on baggage scam
Police pictures of alleged thieves
Police set up hidden cameras
Thirty-six baggage handlers at Milan's Malpensa airport have been sacked over claims that thousands of pieces of luggage have been stolen.

Police had used hidden cameras to film workers rifling through suitcases.

They announced a few days ago that dozens of workers were under investigation, but the suspects have all now been fired.

The airport is a main hub for international flights of the Italian national airline, Al Italia.

Snowboards

Police set up the cameras after receiving an unusually high number of complaints over lost baggage items both at Malpensa and Milan's other international airport, Linate.

Items from jewellery to snowboards are believed to have vanished.

Italian media reports said police searches of suspects' homes and lockers had yielded stolen goods worth about 25,000 euros.

The head of the recently-privatised local airport authority, Giorgio Fossa, decided to sack all the suspected thieves without waiting for formal charges to be laid by the police.

The BBC's David Willey in Rome says this was an unusually bold step, as Italy's labour laws make it difficult to sack employees accused of theft or fraud until the appeals process has been exhausted.

This can last up to 10 years and is a deterrent for employers wanting to dismiss dishonest employees.

He says there is also official concern in Rome in the light of the 11 September attacks over the lax security at Malpensa, which has allowed the thieves to spirit away huge quantities of stolen goods without detection.

Police are now extending their enquiries to other Italian and European airports to ascertain whether the Milan baggage scam has ramifications elsewhere.

See also:

16 Oct 01 | UK
06 Mar 02 | England
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