According to a new report by Italian anti-crime group SOS Impresa, as reported by Reuters, "Organised crime has tightened its grip on the Italian economy during the economic crisis, making the Mafia the country's biggest "bank" and squeezing the life out of thousands of small firms, according to a report on Tuesday."
It is hardly surprising for those accustomed to the sorrow state of Italian affairs to find out that '"With 65 billion euros in liquidity, the Mafia is Italy's number one bank."
Extortion - new vs old school:Organised crime groups like the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, the Naples Camorra or the Calabrian 'Ndrangheta have long had a stranglehold on the Italian economy, generating profits equivalent to about 7 percent of national output.
Extortionate lending had become an increasingly sophisticated and lucrative source of income, alongside drug trafficking, arms smuggling, prostitution, gambling and racketeering, the report said.
"The classic neighbourhood or street loan shark is on the way out, giving way to organised loan-sharking that is well connected with professional circles and operates with the connivance of high-level professionals," the report said.
It estimated about 200,000 businesses were tied to extortionate lenders and tens of thousands of jobs had been lost as a result.
Next up: a surge in prostitution, drugs, xenophobia, child labor, and all those great things that Italy thought it had managed to get away from, and which supposedly were no longer the mark of modern "civilized" society.Old style gangsters handing out cash in bars and pool halls had been replaced by apparently respectable bankers, lawyers or notaries, the report said.
"This is extortion with a clean face," it added. "Through their professions, they know the mechanisms of the legal credit market and they often know the financial position of their victims perfectly."
Small businesses, who have struggled to get hold of credit during the economic slowdown, may have been increasingly tempted to turn to the mafia, said the report.
Typical victims of extortionate lending were middle-aged shopkeepers and small businessmen who would struggle to find a new job and who were ready to try anything to avoid bankruptcy, it added.
"They are usually people in traditional retail sectors like food, greengrocers, clothes or shoe shops, florists or furniture shops. These are the categories which, more than any other, are paying the price of the (economic) crisis," it said.