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Page last updated at 14:13 GMT, Wednesday, 1 April 2009 15:13 UK

Couple plans 'mafia-free' wedding

Fabio Messina and Valeria di Leo, 2008
Mr Messina and Ms Di Leo run a shop in Palermo selling mafia-free goods

A Sicilian couple are planning a wedding designed to keep money out of the pockets of the mafia.

Fabio Messina, 30, and Valeria Di Leo, 29, are part of a campaign against the payment of "pizzo" protection money, Italy's Ansa news agency reports.

The two say everything from the bride's dress to the catering and honeymoon will be bought from "Addiopizzo" or "goodbye protection money" businesses.

Palermo officials say 80% of the city's businesses pay off organised crime.

The mafia is estimated to extort 200m euros (£185m; $265m) a day from Italian businesses through pizzo, loan sharking and other crimes, a 2006 report by the national retailers' association Confesercenti shows.

The report says organised crime groups rake in 80m euros every day from shopkeepers alone.

But anti-mafia police say increasing numbers of Sicilian businesses are joining a grassroots anti-racketeering association called Addiopizzo.

The group publishes a list of businesses that refuse to pay protection money to the mob.

The scheme has been an immediate hit with the public, who welcome the opportunity to keep their cash out of mafia coffers, Ansa reports.

The campaign has prompted Mr Messina and his fiancee to open Palermo's first Addiopizzo shop - selling clothes, food and home decorations exclusively from Addiopizzo suppliers - in March last year.

''I thought it was right to give those traders who refuse to pay protection money an extra opportunity,'' Mr Messina said.



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