According to the second report of the permanent body for monitoring and analyzing the infiltration of organized crime, criminal organizations could gain vitality in the post-Covid era in different fields, from tourism to food services.
The aforementioned body has been established in the aftermath of coronavirus outbreak, on initiative of the Italian Interior minister, Luciana Lamorgese, and by decree of the head of Police, Franco Gabrielli. It is made up of representatives coming from the State Police, the Carabinieri, the Guardia di Finanza, the Penitentiary police, the Anti-drug services and the Anti-mafia directorate. Their main goal is predicting every initiative planned by organized crime to spread its control over markets and economic activities.
As stated in the report, also mentioned by the Italian Interior Minister, in the “post-lockdown” era organized crime is focusing on a wide range of production and trade sectors, such as tourism, food services, waste, fitness and games centers, manufacture and energy industries, real estate and finance. The main target of criminal organization could be represented, now more than in the past, by financial markets, given the ongoing decline of the Italian economy due to the pandemic.
Furthermore, usury too could become a widespread phenomenon, often affecting the weaker layers of society. It also has a significant impact on security, since sometimes criminal episodes linked to usury trigger strong aggression. Moreover, usury generates harmful effects on the economy, undermining private economic initiative, especially for smaller businesses, creating a relationship of dependence on the criminal world and offering the underworld opportunities for illicit enrichment, reinvestment, money laundering and infiltration in the economic fabric.
According to the report, the so-called “over-indebtedness” can be one of the main causes of usury, and it derives from the inability to manage one’s own business or from the overestimation of one’s income capacity, or from other unpredictable factors, as in the case of the current pandemic phase, which could entail contraction in revenues and/or increase in expenditures. Actually, usury can take different forms and can be practiced by professionals as well as entrepreneurs and traders, but it often constitutes an instrument in the hands of Mafia, so as to it can penetrate into the vital structures of civil society and pursue huge profits. In particular, criminal organizations often grant loans to owners of small-medium sized businesses facing troubles, and they create a “delinquent friendship” in order to take over the ownership or the management of weaker businesses and turn them into a tool to recycle and re-use illicit capital.
In the current emergency phase, criminal organizations, and the ‘ndrangheta in particular, show flexibility in diversifying their sectors of interest to maximize profits. As stated in the report, on the one hand, the liquidity crisis and the difficulties experienced by companies in this current phase of reopening could foster “structured activities” of criminal organizations by using refined and complex financial instruments that allow to get hold of entrepreneurial assets in the tourism, restaurant and trade sectors. On the other hand, the huge public resources that will be brought into circulation may offer significant opportunities for organized crime, facilitating its attempts of infiltration and money laundering. Moreover, criminal organizations could also profit from the public subsidies provided by the Italian government to families and businesses in need, affected by the pandemic.
On April 29, minster Lamorgese revealed an increase in the number of criminal offenses linked to usury (+9,1%), underlining that, despite measures taken to aid families and businesses facing a lack of liquidity, there still was the risk of criminal infiltrations in the social and economic sector. Therefore, the minister urged relevant authorities to take action to increase prevention activities and identification of tell-tale offenses that can signal the existence of such infiltrations.
As revealed by the National Anti-Mafia Directorate (DIA), Calabria, Sicily, Campania, Apulia, and Basilicata are the main regions of origin of organized crime, and where mafia organizations are still active. Calabria is where ‘ndrangheta is mainly affirmed. Camorra, on the other hand, is from Campania, while Cosa Nostra is the Sicilian one. Apulia, according to the document, hosts more than one organization, differing according to the provinces of origin. Mainly, they are three: the Mafia from Foggia, criminality from Bari, and Sacra Corona Unita, in Salento, in the south of Apulia. Basilicata, finally, is where neighbor organizations, mainly from Apulia, Campania, and Calabria, interfere with each other.
This article was firstly published on June 30, 2020