Sat, Oct 03, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Mafia still has a formidable grip on Italy, report says


The mafia’s formidable grip on Italy has been starkly illustrated by a new report claiming 13 million Italians live in areas where the mob exerts influence over everyday life.

Commissioned by Italy’s parliamentary anti-mafia commission, the report by research institute Censis used crime statistics to find the number of urban and rural districts where clans are active in the Italian south.

The Italians living in the 610 districts identified, even if law abiding and not members of clans, “are in some way conditioned by a presence that draws its strength from the ability to exert a capillary control in the area,” the report said.

Giuseppe Pisanu, head of the anti-mafia commission, said the Italian mafia was now “silently prospering, moving on from spectacular crimes and massacres to business and politics, with a prudent dose of intimidation and violence in a bid to take over the fundamental role of the state.”

Censis found the highest concentration of people living under the shadow of the mafia, 95.9 percent, was in the province of Agrigento in Sicily, followed by Naples at 95 percent.

The four main mobs in Italy — Sicily’s Cosa Nostra, the Naples Camorra, the Calabrian ’Ndrangheta and the Puglian Sacra Corona — enjoy an estimated annual turnover of 130 billion euros (US$189 billion), but they have left a trail of poverty, said Pisanu, pointing out that the 22 percent of Italians living under the shadow of the mob produced just 14.6 percent of Italy’s GDP and held just 12.4 percent of the country’s bank deposits.

In Catania and Palermo, 80 percent of shops allegedly pay protection money, starting from 500 euros a month.

Suspicious fires, possibly to pressure businesses into paying protection money, in the four regions studied by Censis doubled to 8,441 a year between 1998 and 2007.

Investigators believe Italy’s clans are now investing more of their profits from extortion and drug dealing outside the Italian south, including in building work at the site for Milan’s Expo in 2015.

The Camorra and the ’Ndrangheta are suspected of carving up investments in Rome, with the former focusing on suburban shopping centers and the latter on luxury property and restaurants in the heart of the capital. Despite the stalled Italian economy, a large number of bars in Rome have recently received expensive makeovers, which Pisanu said was probably because of an influx of mob money.

“As we get better at confiscating funds in Italy, the mafias are also getting better at investing overseas,” he said. “The ’Ndrangheta has even offered to act as a financial services consultant to the Colombian cartels.”

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