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Mafia Italy's number one

Mafia Italy’s number one

(12 January 2012 – Italy) The Mafia has tightened its grip on the Italian economy during the economic crisis, making it the country’s biggest "bank" and squeezing thousands of small firms. Anti-crime group SOS Impresa released a statement condemning criminal groups saying their extortions had become a "national emergency".

Organised crime now generated annual turnover of about €140 billion (A$175 billion) and profits of more than €100 billion, it added.

'With €65 billion in liquidity, the Mafia is Italy's number one bank,' said a statement from the group, which was set up in Palermo a decade ago to oppose extortion rackets against small business.

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.

It estimated about 200,000 businesses were tied to extortionate lenders and tens of thousands of jobs had been lost as a result.

Old style gangsters handing out cash in bars and pool halls had been replaced by apparently respectable bankers, lawyers or notaries, the report said.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.
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