Mafia spreads 'like cancer' but cuts violence

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Italian authorities arrested or charged 873 people for mafia-related crimes in the second half of 2013. Police photo: Shutterstock
14:11 CEST+02:00
The Italian mafia is on the march, infiltrating whole new sectors of Italy's economy, a new official report has warned. But while corruption is spreading, old-school mafia violence is becoming less common.

The mafia was "penetrating the economic-administrative fabric" of Italy and spreading "like a cancer" through Italy's richest regions, the report by the government’s anti-mafia directorate (Dia) said.

Italian authorities arrested or charged 873 people for mafia-related crimes in the second half of 2013, but more needs to be done to tackle widespread corruption, the Dia said.

The mafia is branching out beyond traditional economic sectors and into more “innovative” ones including rubbish disposal, health, online gaming, restoration, gardening and alternative energy.

Financial interests are the most "worrying" aspect of the mafia's development according to Riccardo Guido, a consultant at Italy's Parliamentary Anti-mafia Commission.

"These activities are the most worrying at the moment, because the mafia are becoming part of the normal economy. They’re no longer the “mean” mafia, but present themselves as investors," he told The Local.

The move towards the legal economy has at least seen the mafia scale back on violence, a tactic Guido said the criminal groups are no longer interested in. The bombing campaigns which ripped through Sicily in the early 1990s are unlikely to be repeated, he said.

Meanwhile, corruption of Italy's government institutions has reached a “systemtic level” which has slowed down Italy’s socioeconomic growth. This in turn fuels mistrust in the country’s institutions, which are themselves restricted by Italian bureaucracy, the government body said.

Corruption damages local government institutions, which are often in denial about the problem, the report says.  These authorities find it hard to get central government money and face "daily changes to competition rules,” the Dia said.

The report focuses on the last six months of 2013, before two high-profile scandals hit northern Italy. Milan’s Expo2015 trade fair has been wracked by accusations of corruption, while in Venice the “Moses” flood barrier project is being investigated over bribery claims.

The Dia is however clear to distinguish between the varying fortunes of Italy’s main mafia groups.

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The Calabria-based 'Ndrangheta continues to have strong ability to “exploit the pockets of dishonesty in the administrative apparatus,” cementing the group’s influence. Guido said the 'Ndrangheta is "definitely" the most powerful mafia in Italy, if not the world, due to it control over the cocaine trafficking market. 

Sicily’s Cosa Nostra mafia has been less successful and is currently going through a restructuring, having “lost solidarity, freedom of action and power of influence” on the island.

Italian authorities have made some headway in the Naples area, the homeland of the Camorra. There the mafia has “suffered from the pressure of investigations”, which are ongoing, the Dia said. 

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