ROME: Criminal organisations in Italy are distributing food and ordering interest-free lending to the needy to try to extend their influence, Italian anti-mafia author Roberto Saviano has warned.
Italy’s mafia groups are also poised to snatch up struggling businesses as the country — which is in crisis over the deadly coronavirus pandemic — awaits European funding to boost its battered economy, he said.
“If Europe doesn’t intervene soon the multiplication of mafioso money that’s already in Germany, France, Spain, Holland, Belgium will be unrestrained,” Saviano told journalists on Thursday.
Saviano, best known for his non-fiction book “Gomorrah” about southern Italy’s Camorra clan, is an expert on mafia groups and how they have successfully expanded beyond drugs and other illegal activity to worm their way into otherwise legitimate businesses and sectors across the world.
At the most basic level, criminal organisations are providing groceries for the poorest Italians, Saviano said.
Moreover, in Italy’s southern capital Naples, moneylenders, on orders of the Camorra, have cancelled interest on debt, he said. “For what purpose? For favours,” he said.
That could be votes, or allowing someone to put their name on a contract as a front for the mafia, he added.
After weeks of wrangling, EU finance ministers agreed a 500-billion-euro rescue for European countries hit hard by the coronavirus, but put aside the demands from Italy and France for pooled borrowing.
“In Italy, the mafia is just waiting for a new shower of money from Brussels,” wrote Die Welt columnist Christoph Schiltz, warning against Europe handing out funds with “no limit” and “without any control”.