Tuesday, October 23, 2007

In Italy, Organized Crime Does Pay

Organized crime represents the biggest segment of the Italian economy, accounting for more than $127 billion in receipts, according to a report issued Monday.

The new figure reflects a trend that has been under way for a few years, the annual report says. The figure last year was $106 billion, making it not quite the biggest segment of the economy.

The report also said the line between legitimate business and criminal activity was becoming harder to discern.

The annual report was released by the Confesercenti, an association of small businesses. It says that through various activities — extortion, usury, contraband, robberies, gambling and Internet piracy — organized crime accounts for 7 percent of Italy’s gross domestic product.

“From the weaving factories, to tourism to business and personal services, from farming to public contracts to real estate and finance, the criminal presence is consolidated in every economic activity,” the 86-page report said.

The report also points to a disturbing trend of collusion in which big businesses participate, especially in public works. “The businessmen prefer to make a pact with the Mafia rather than denounce the blackmail,” the report said.

The report comes on the heels of a visit to Naples by Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday, when he condemned “deplorable” mob violence that he said had insinuated itself into everyday life.

Recent news reports have described threats to journalists in Sicily and the Campania region from organized-crime families.

Usury represents the most lucrative activity by organized crime, with syndicates taking in $43 billion while racketeering brings in $14 billion, the report estimated. Illegal construction nets about $19 billion.

The businesses most afflicted by organized crime are in the south — in Sicily, Campania, Calabria and Puglia, the report found.

The report says 80 percent of the businesses in the Sicilian cities of Catania and Palermo regularly pay protection money, known as “pizzo.”

Thanks to Peter Kiefer

Forzieri.com / Firenze Seta srl

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