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Mafia is biggest business in Italy

23 January 2012 No Comment

THE Mafia is now Italy’s biggest business enterprise, with an annual turnover of €140 billion ($A174 billion), according to an authoritative report.

The country’s four Mafia groups have broken out of their traditional strongholds and spread across the whole country, taking advantage of the economic crisis to snap up ailing businesses and ramp up their loan-shark operations.

They have estimated cash reserves of €65 billion and estimated annual profits of €100 billion, about 7 per cent of Italy’s GDP, says a study released by Confesercenti, an employers’ association.

It seems the average mobster is no longer a machinegun-toting hoodlum but a savvy businessman with a smart phone and a sophisticated knowledge of finance. ”Mafia Inc is Italy’s No.1 bank with €65 billion in liquidity,” the association said in its report, Criminality’s Grip on Business.

With the economic crisis meaning banks are loath to lend, Mafia dons have profited as desperate businesses turn to loan sharks demanding crippling rates of interest.

”Among the illegal activities of Mafia organisations is loan-sharking, which with the economic crisis has become a national emergency,” said Marco Venturi, the president of Confesercenti. ”According to our estimates, loan-sharking caused the closure in 2010 of 1800 businesses and destroyed thousands of jobs. Right now, Mafia Inc is the only business enterprise willing to make substantial investments.”

Small business owners with tight margins and limited cash flow were the most vulnerable – some 200,000 had fallen victim to usury, Mr Venturi said.

They were also being hit by extortion and straightforward robbery by the mob – at a rate of one crime a minute.

The Mafia’s influence was felt not only in its traditional strongholds such as Palermo and Naples but also increasingly in the wealthy north of Italy.

Confesercenti, which represents 270,000 small-to-medium businesses, said the new technocrat government of Mario Monti had to help firms ”retake territory occupied by the Mafia”.

But it will be an uphill battle. Organised crime controls everything from gambling to construction and the disposal of industrial and household waste.

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