At least 5,000 restaurants in Italy are thought to be mafia-run

At least 5,000 restaurants across Italy are in the hands of the mafia, consumer group Coldiretti has warned.

At least 5,000 restaurants in Italy are thought to be mafia-run
The mafia's grip on Italy's food industry has tightened over the past year, Coldiretti warns. File photo: Michele Ursino/Flickr

Organized crime groups “have taken advantage of the economic crisis to infiltrate the legal economy in an increasingly vast and widespread manner,” Coldiretti said on Sunday.

Their warning followed a vast anti-mafia sting over the weekend, which uncovered links between popular tourist restaurants and organized crime groups.

Police seized the bank accounts and 24 properties of a Neapolitan family, amounting to a total value of 20 million euros.

One of the restaurants was Donna Sophia dal 1931, located in central Milan between the city's cathedral and canals. On TripAdvisor, the eatery had received mixed reviews, with some guests criticizing the food and service and others complimenting the “delicious Neapolitan pizza”.

The group was also found to be behind Villa delle Ninfe, an event venue and restaurant in Pozzuoli, Naples. 

The use of restaurants as a screen for illegal activities is nothing new; in 2015, two well-known Rome restaurants were shut down over links to criminal groups, and the Calabria-based 'Ndrangheta were even found to be behind a popular New York pizzeria.

But Coldiretti said that the practice is becoming increasingly widespread, with criminals often cutting corners in health and safety which put consumers and the environment at risk.

Agricultural crime or 'agromafie' brought in a massive 21.8 billion euros for underground groups last year, according to Coldiretti figures. This represents a 30 percent increase from the previous year, with mafia groups infiltrating all kinds of food businesses, from trendy bars to restaurants and chains, and even food production.

Criminal bosses use extortion to force farmers to sell at low prices and businesses to buy their products, creating monopolies.

“Agriculture has become one of the priority investment areas for the underworld,” Coldiretti explained. “They understand that it is strategic in a time of crisis because it allows them to infiltrate civil society in a widespread way and condition people's everyday lives.”

However, restaurants are far from the only legitimate businesses used as a screen for illegal activities by mafia groups.

Clan members are able to launder money gained through drug trafficking or other crimes using businesses ranging from souvenir shops to real estate.

Organized crime groups were also found to have exploited the migrant crisis, setting up illegal accommodation centres with sub-standard conditions, to make money off the new arrivals to Italy. And prosecutors have warned of mafia infiltration in the renewable energy sector, meaning poorer regions such as Sardinia and Sicily have seen little of the economic benefits from Italy's green energy boom.

READ ALSO: Fury in Sicily over mafia-themed tours

Fury in Sicily over mafia-themed tourist tours
Photo: AFP


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Italy’s president calls for ‘full truth’ on anniversary of Bologna bombing

President Sergio Mattarella said on Tuesday it was the state's duty to shed more light on the 1980 bombing of Bologna's train station, on the 42nd anniversary of the attack that killed 85 people and injured 200.

Italy's president calls for 'full truth' on anniversary of Bologna bombing

On August 2nd 1980, a bomb exploded in the railway station’s waiting room, causing devastation on an unprecedented scale.

Five members of terrorist groups were later convicted in relation to the bombing, the worst episode in Italy’s ‘Years of Lead’ period of political violence in the 1970s and 80s.

Most recently, in 2020, a former member of the far-right Armed Revolutionary Nucleus (NAR) was sentenced to life imprisonment for providing logistical support to those who carried out the attack.

But suspicions remain of cover-ups and the involvement of “deviant elements” within the nation’s security services, reported Italian news agency Ansa.

READ ALSO: Bologna massacre: 40 years on, questions remain over Italy’s deadliest postwar terror attack

“The bomb that killed people who happened to be at the station on that morning 42 years ago still reverberates with violence in the depths of the country’s conscience,” Mattarella said in a speech marking the anniversary on Tuesday.

“It was the act of cowardly men of unequalled inhumanity, one of the most terrible of the history of the Italian Republic.

A train compartment at Bologna station pictured following the 1980 bombing attributed to the neo-fascist terrorist organization Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari.

“It was a terrorist attack that sought to destabilise democratic institutions and sow fear, hitting ordinary citizens going about their everyday tasks.

“On the day of the anniversary our thoughts go, above all, to the relatives forced to suffer the greatest pain.

“The neo-fascist nature of the massacre has been established in court and further steps have been made to unveil the cover-ups and those who ordered the attack in order to comply with the Republic’s duty to seek the full truth”.

The bombing remains Western Europe’s fourth deadliest postwar terror attack, and one of the most devastating in Italy’s history.