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China Daily Website

Crisis-hit Italy more exposed to mafia power

Updated: 2012-01-12 14:33
( Xinhua)

MILAN, Italy - Mafia has put its hands on the Italian economy cashing in on the ongoing financial crisis, leading anti-mafia prosecutor Antonio Ingroia told Xinhua in an exclusive interview on Wednesday.

Ingroia, who is a public prosecutor in Sicily's capital Palermo, said that the mafia today is still a dangerous economic and financial power in Italy.

"Mafia is still far from being defeated, on the contrary, it has become a real criminal holding whose offshoots extend to other European and international countries,"he said.

In the prosecutor's view, a report released recently by retailers' association Confesercenti describing mafia as the "biggest bank" in the country was not an exaggeration.

According to the report, a growing number of small- and medium-sized enterprises are the main victims of rackets, loan sharking and robberies which generates a turnover of 138 billion euros ($175 billion) a year, or 7 percent of Italy's gross domestic product.

"Although quantifying the black and grey economy is always a hazard, these numbers give a realistic representation of the mafia phenomenon,"Ingroia said.

Such a big business, he said, includes both illegal and seemingly legal activities whose initial capitals belonged to the mafia thus were originated from illicit affairs.

"In fact money laundering is disguising the illicit origin of capitals by reinvesting them in seemingly licit activities, which mafia is increasingly doing also through exploiting the economic crisis," he said.

The prosecutor said the mafia is cashing in on the escalating eurozone debt crisis.

"Some important steps in fighting mafias have been taken recently by the Italian police and authorities, especially in the direction of eradicating territorial control and social consensus which used to be very tight until some years ago," Ingroia stressed.

"But the current economic slowdown has been capitalized by the criminal groups, that have developed strong ability in reinvesting their massive amounts of liquidity in credit crunch markets," he said.

In fact, Ingroia pointed out, many entrepreneurs are forced by the crisis to accept illegal funding provided by the mafia which, as highlighted in the report, owns 65 billion euros ($82 billion) in liquidity.

As a consequence of loan sharking, thousands of businesses and jobs have been destroyed over years.

"The recent captures of leading fugitive mafia bosses are extraordinary achievements," said the prosecutor, who has been fighting mafia for 20 years coming under threat several times.

"But Italy needs joint efforts to overcome mafia, starting from eliminating impunity, group interests and a worrying mafia culture still widespread in the economic and political world as well as in the society," he said.