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Guardia di Finanza - Pratica di Mare

The origins of the Guardia di Finanza date back to 1774, when the Legione Truppe Leggere was established by King of Sardinia, Vittorio Amedeo III. It was the first corps in Italy set up especially to guard the finance, customs and border. After the unification of Italy in 1862 the Corpo delle Guardie Doganali was established which relies on the primary task of customs supervision and defending the state. By Italian State Law 149 in 1881 the Corpo delle Guardie Dogonali receives the official title Corpo della Regia Guardia di Finanza, whose task was to prevent, suppress and report smuggling and any other violation and transgression of the laws and regulations of finance.


The reorganization of the Italian Police Forces in 1919, also involves the Corpo della Regia Guardia di Finanza. The responsibilities are divided between the Inspector General, an Army Officer in charge of the military training area, and the Commanding General, an Officer of the Guard itself to maintain direct relation with the Minister. Post-war reconstruction, economic development,  international trade liberalization and the

first signs of a process of European integration lead to a new Italian tax structure. The reform of direct taxation lead to a profound change in the system of prosecution of tax evasion. On May 2nd 1949 in the presence of several Ministers the Commander of the Corps Academy opened the first course on financial administration, directed by Prof, Cosciani, for the Guardia di Finanza officers. From this moment the preparation of tax police activity becomes the central theme of the of basic and advanced training of officers and NCOs.


A period of intense modernization lies ahead. Within a few years, the fleet is radically transformed, automation saw its entry with a computing center and a K9 dog center was established for dog breeding and training for anti-smuggling. The mission and institutional tasks of the Guardia di Finanza we know today are stated in Italian State Law 189 of April 23rd 1959 and subdivided into priority ones (preventing, investigating and reporting financial evasions and violations, overseeing the compliance with the provisions of politico-economic interest and surveillance at sea for financial police purposes) and contribution ones (maintaining public order and safety and politico-military defense of the borders). The Guardia di Finanza has around 68.000 employees (agents, NCOs and officers) Its activities are financial, economic, judiciary and public safety: tax evasion, financial crimes, smuggling, money laundering, international illegal drug trafficking, illegal immigration, customs and border checks, copyright violations, anti-Mafia operations, credit card fraud, cybercrime, counterfeiting, terrorist financing, maintaining public order and safety, political and military defense of the Italian borders.

The Servizio Aereo of the Guardia di Finanza was established on February 1st 1954 in order to combat smuggling by maritime air patrolling, acquisition of integrated information obtained through surveys and electronic warfare. The first aircraft of the corps were the Agusta Bell AB.47 helicopters. Nowadays the Guardia di Finanza operates a total of 97 helicopters (eighteen A-109s, eighteen AW-109s, two AW-139s, twenty-two AB.412s and thirty-seven NH.500s) and 17 aircraft (four ATR-42s, eleven P.166s and two P.180s) from no less than 15 different locations which cover the entire national territory.


The personnel of the Servizio Aereo is divided into: pilots, specialists and system operators. The basic training on the helicopter takes place at Frosinone, with 72 Stormo. And the basic training on the fixed-wing aircraft takes place at Latina with 70 Stormo. Specialists are trained at the Reggia di Caserta in Air Force Academy for NCOs. The follow-up training is held at the Centro di Aviazione at Pratica di Mare.


The fixed-wing aircraft are part of the Gruppo Esplorazione Aeromarittima which also operates from Pratica di Mare. During a recent visit I was told, the ATR-42 played a key role in anti-Mafia operations in the Napoli region which involved leaders of the Fabbrocino clan. With the sophisticated cameras onboard the ATR-42s the specialists of the Guardia di Finanza were able to follow the movements of the mobsters from high level without being noticed.


One of the operations the Guardia di Finanza is still dealing with, is the detection, rescue and escort of refugees en route to the South Italian island Lampedusa. Since the outbreak of the ‘Arab Spring’ a revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests occurring in the Arab world, on December 17th 2010 the island was flooded with refugees from North Africa. In the beginning mainly from Tunisia, but later also from countries like Libya and Syria. When in March 2011 the island counted more refugees then island inhabitants, the locals revolted and Italian Primi Minister Silvio Berlusconi promised to take action. Since then not much has changed and there are still large groups of refugees heading for the island.

During my visit to the Comando Operativo Aeronavale of the Guardia di Finanza at Pratica di Mare on May 3rd 2012, numerous other stories were told about the recent operations of the Servizio Aereo of the Guardia di Finanza. I was able to take shots of every type of helicopters and aircraft which are operated by the Servizio Aereo. A very big thanks for organizing this visit goes out to Maresciallo Capo Giuseppe Spiga, Capitano Massimo Terenzi, Colonnello Maurizio Muscarà and all their colleagues.    (Click here for a log)





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