ROME (AP) — Italy’s anti-Mafia investigators issued a warning Friday that mobsters will try to get some of hundreds of billions of euros in European Union recovery aid after the pandemic.
As EU country leaders were huddling in Brussels about the amount and conditions for aid, the paramilitary general heading Italy’s anti-Mafia investigative agency DIA said mobsters are surely already scheming how to tap into some of that money, including through corruption or exploiting the country’s notorious slow, inefficient bureaucracy.
Carabinieri Gen. Giuseppe Governale in an interview with RAI state TV likened the expected windfall of aid after COVID-19 devastated much of Europe’s economy to mammoth reconstruction following World War II.
“Hundreds of billions (of euros) will pour into Europe and Italy, and at this point, the Mafia won't stand around and watch,'' Governale said. ”The Mafia will dive into this sea" of money.
In past decades, Italy's several crime syndicates have often used intimidation or connivance or kickbacks to win public works contracts in the country.
As a measure of how mobsters often influence local authorities who award such lucrative contracts, DIA's nearly 900-page, semi-annual report on the state of the country's crime syndicates noted that more than 50 municipal governments in Italy — mostly in the south, mobsters' traditional power bases, but also as far north as the Alps — are currently being run by local prefects, after investigators determined that crime bosses had conditioned elected town officials.
The report reviewed investigations against organized crime in the last six months of 2019. But with much of Europe struggling to regain its economic footing after months of coronavirus lockdown, the DIA decided to sound an alarm that EU funds will be seen as manna for Italy's mobsters, who in the last few decades have already heavily infiltrated the country's legitimate businesses.
With Italy's economy stagnant for years even before the pandemic, the nation's mobsters have used many of their billions of euros in cocaine and other drug trafficking revenues to buy up struggling hotels, pharmacies, restaurants, car dealerships and clothing shops. In particular the ‘ndrangheta, considered Italy’s most powerful crime syndicate and a major criminal organization in much of Europe, is well positioned to go on a buying spree.
“The international economy will need liquidity, and in this, the ('ndrangheta) clans will go compete with the markets, needing substantial financial infusions,” DIA's report said.