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Italian government to make new moves against the Mafia? Stay tuned! PDF Print E-mail
Jan 31, 2010 at 08:40 PM

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The Italian cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, met last week in the southern Italian city of Reggio Calabria and approved a ten-point plan to speed up the fight against the Mafia. At the same time, the Italian manufacturers' association, Confindustria, announced that from here on any member who pays protection money to any of Italy's criminal associations will be asked to resign from the organization. The so called "pizzo" is estimated to affect at least 160,000 Italian companies and businesses.

The government's new plan calls for the establishment of a national Agency that would manage the wealth confiscated from captured and convicted criminals and which will be based in Reggio Calabria, the capital of the crime-riddled Calabria region. A codex of anti-Mafia legislation from as far back as 1965, together with a detailed map of the country's criminal organizations, will also be compiled to help police combat them, along with an interforce desk that will share information among Italy's diverse police forces. In addition, the country's anti-Mafia task forces will now be given authority over illegal waste management. Given the recent riots in nearby Rosarno, attempts to limit illegal immigration, thought to swell the ranks of criminals employed by the Mafia, will be stepped up as will a long-overdue crackdown in the area on enterprises that use illegal labor.

Over the last year or two, Italian police appear to have made significant strides against organized crime, capturing many of the "most wanted" leaders of Cosa Nostra (Sicily), the Camorra (Campania) and the N'dranghete (Calabria). But the hold of the Mafia (or, rather, Mafias) on the Italian economy remains enormous. According to a report, released last week, by Confesercenti, the Italian association of small businesses (primarily tourism, commerce and refreshments), the estimated financial turnover last year for Italian organized crime - a business the association's authors dub Mafia Inc - in Italy was 135 billion euros, equal to 7% of Italian GNP.

Furthermore, the present Italian government has made some decisions that appear likely to weaken progress against organized crime, namely that of sharply limiting police and magistrates in their use of telephone tapping, by attempting to shorten the length of trials, and by giving arrested criminals the possibility of choosing a form of trial - the so-called rito abbreviato -which allows mafiosi to end up with jail terms that experts say are too short, that is, not long enough to make working with for for organized crime a real risk.

The plan for a new Agency to deal with confiscated wealth - estimated at over five billion euros worth - could make a difference but not, critics say, if the instrument used is that of auctioning off homes, cars, factories, inventories and so on, as in a public auction is it not hard for a mafioso to use an intermediary to buy assets back.

According to the Confesercenti report, organized crime's major earnings come from narcotics, estimated at E 60 billion, the protection racket (E24) and waste disposal and related activities, accounting for some E16 billion. Subcontracts in building and revenue from "normal" investments make up the rest. The report also says that while Italian GNP as a whole dropped last year by 5%, organized crime increased its turnover by some 3.7% (how they are able to calculate this is beyond me, but this is what the report says, speaking of a sharp increase in usury because of reduced lending by banks.). It says that organized crime is much more flexible in its largely cash-based operations than legitimate businesses.

 

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