Italy has a long tradition of unauthorised building to which officialdom often turns a blind eye; as recently as March 2003 a general amnesty was granted to thousands of such abusive constructions, freeing their owners from eventual punishment. Unsurprisingly perhaps, the practice refuses to die away with recent examples including an eight-story block of flats that had risen to 15, a roof terrace converted into a penthouse suite and a hut converted into a high-rise chimney to hide a telephone mast. Police in central Rome have confirmed 120 building violations so far this year, mainly thanks to the help of whistle-blowing members of the public. Ornello Merosi, head of the police unit investigating the cases, believes the authorities are now paying a high price for the last amnesty. It has become difficult to prove the builders guilt or innocence as they frequently maintain that the works in question simply involve renovation of the previous works, which were amnestied in 2003.
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