How Italy plans to stop mafia preying on Covid-hit businesses

How Italy plans to stop mafia preying on Covid-hit businesses
A charity food bank in Italy, where poverty has worsened following the coronavirus shutdown - and mafia stand to profit. Photo: AFP
Italy has stepped up measures to stop mafia infiltration into companies now struggling financially due to coronavirus, and to stop crime groups siphoning funds meant for crisis relief.

Officials have issued an average of 150 “anti-mafia bans” each month so far this year; measures that prevent a company from entering into contracts with

public administration, Italy's La Repubblica newspaper reported.
 
The figure was a 25 percent rise on last year, according to the paper.
 
The efforts are part of a broader attempt to keep European Union recovery funds out of the hands of criminal groups, a risk Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese warned of earlier this year as the pandemic began to bite.
 
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Police are investigating about 3,000 cases of alleged fraud involving funds intended to help those hit by the pandemic and subsequent shutdown, Il Sole 24 Ore said.
 
The southern regions of Campania, Sicily and Calabria, where the three most powerful mafias originate, have been the primary focus of the bans.
 
But Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna in northern and central Italy have also accounted for a substantial number, underscoring the national – as well as international – reach of organised crime groups.
 
 
The groups have been offering loans or buying out companies that hit dire financial difficulties after Italy imposed a more than two-month lockdown in
March.
 
“The mafia's movements, in this period, focus more than ever on financing, acquisitions and infiltration into companies,” national anti-mafia prosecutor
Cafiero De Raho told Il Sole 24 Ore.
 
 
“We are checking, for example, for what we define as 'inconsistent' investments, looking at volumes (of funds transferred), subjects and destinations.”
 
The most affected sectors are restaurants, hotels, food production, supermarkets and construction, in addition to private companies in the health sector.
 
Each group has their own preferences.
 
While the Camorra mafia from Campania has been sourcing masks and Sicily's Cosa Nostra sanitation equipment, Calabria's 'Ndrangheta has targeted public
construction including health care projects, La Repubblica reported.
 
 
A total of 1,400 bans have been issued in 2020 with the rate rising in the last four months, when government aid began to reach companies, the paper
wrote. 
 
Police have also reportedly seen a sharp increase in cases of mafia lending to the unemployed and poorest sections of the population.

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