Italian Mafia Ready To Exploit Pandemic Aid, A New Report Warns

The Italian Anti-Mafia Directorate (DIA) has warned that mafia groups are taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic and are well-poised to exploit the recovery projects aimed to relaunch the country after the crisis.

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Teresa Marvulli
Teresa Marvulli
Italian journalist based in the UK. I trained at City, University of London and I write about the environment, Italian politics and current affairs with a focus on the EU.

ITALY. Rome: On Wednesday, the Italian Anti-Mafia Investigation Directorate (DIA) has presented its twice-yearly report to the Parliament, raising the alarm on the potential danger that the nation’s mobsters pose to the pandemic recovery projects.

According to the 600 pages report, Italian mafias – ‘Ndrangheta, Cosa Nostra and Camorra- will probably try to intercept funding from major public works and green economy conversation’s projects.

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Italy will receive more than 200bl euros in EU recovery founds, money aimed to relaunch the country after the crisis. In particular, they will help support the national health system and boost the economy through digitalization, green transition and public projects.

However, as reported by AP, DIA’s director, Maurizio Vallone, in an interview with Italian news programme TG5, said that Italy’s mobsters are “today financiers, tomorrow surely exploiters, predators”, referring to the companies and businesses that the recovery funds are meant to support.

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The main problem, the report suggested, lays in the speed at which Italy has been assigning the recovery money to businesses, aiming to compensate for the economic losses caused by the lockdowns.

Italy has always tried to oversee closely the awarding of public works contracts, hoping to avoid organised crime’s infiltrations. However, this scrutiny has never discouraged mafias from trying their way to those contracts; thus, the risk is that the new projects could see an increase in organised crime infiltrations.

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“All this will constitute serious risks of mafia infiltration in the legal economy, especially in the health sector that represents a big area of interest”, the report says.

Risks for small businesses

The DIA said: “The analysis of the criminality during the lockdown period have shown that mafia organisations, as predicted, have moved with a strategy aimed to consolidate the control over the territory.”  

According to the report, the risks behind this strategy are that the struggling small businesses could be dragged, in the long term, into the criminal net, becoming a money laundering tool.

As reported by AP, DIA’s director, Maurizio Vallone, told RAI, Italy’s state TV, that “mobsters increasingly are investing in businesses weakened by COVID-19 lockdowns, with the goal of ultimately take them over.”

According to the report, mafia groups offer “companies in difficulty a form of social welfare as an alternative to [public] institutions, but then adopt the traditional intimidatory conduct aimed at acquiring control of their economic activities.”

Mafias like businesses

Italy’s three main mafia groups have taken “the very characteristics of a business enterprise, if not those of a holding company that is constantly looking to expand, even while maintaining uncharged its very criminal essence”, the DIA highlighted.

An analysis of the type of crimes during the lockdown period showed that there was a decline in offences such as robberies, handling of stolen goods, and counterfeiting, due to the social restrictions in place. However, in the same period, other crimes such as illegal substances’ traffic and smuggling saw a slight increase.

According to the DIA, those two crimes are a clear sign of the control these groups have on the territory.

In the same way, DIA reported “an increase of cases of money-laundering and re-investing illicit money”, especially in the north and central Italy. Meanwhile, in the south of the country, mafia groups focused on vote-buying and corruption.

Calabria’s ‘Ndrangheta group is the richest

Italy has three main mafias: ‘Ndrangheta, localised in the south region of Calabria; Cosa Nostra, the oldest of the three and based on the island of Sicily, and Camorra, which developed around Naples. However, all three operates all over Italy and abroad.

For instance, the report highlighted evidence, discovered by Italian authorities, of attempts by New York’s Gambino crime family to reawaken historic ties with Cosa Nostra.

DIA stressed how, of the three, Calabria’s ‘Ndrangheta is the strongest and wealthiest, thanks to its prominence in international drugs trafficking.  

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