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Italy ramps up efforts to shield companies from mafia

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Italy has stepped up measures to stem mafia infiltration into companies struggling financially because of the coronavirus crisis, reports said on Monday.

Officials have issued an average of 150 “anti-mafia bans” each month so far this year, measures that prevent companies from entering into contracts with the public administration, 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.

Police are investigating about 3,000 cases of alleged fraud involving virus funds, the 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 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, 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.  

According to Il Sole 24 Ore, police have also seen a sharp increase in cases of mafia lending to the unemployed and poorest sections of the population. 


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