Italian politicians and media were incensed when a German daily warned that the mafias were preparing to snap up the European rescue funds expected to come from Brussels. But the newspapers' concern is unfortunately justified. For decades, the mafias sent some of their best young people to Rome to take up those jobs in the central administration which the proud northern Italians shunned because they preferred to work in the local industrial economy. Therefore the mafias are not only entrenched in the South where they are currently supplanting the government unable to feed and soothe the poor during the epidemy. The term "money laundering" assumes a new dimension when only the mafias possess the liquidity to provide small and medium size businesses with enough credit to stave off or postpone bankruptcy. Already before the corona crisis, the mafias were probably the largest employers in Italy. The crisis can help them to acquire a huge portfolio of companies and really start dominating the Italian economy.
Two Italian judges, Giovanni Zaccaro and Nino Di Matteo, have sent a letter to the High Council of Justice (CSM), a constitutional advisory body, urging four amendments to the project of the law governing the disburdements of huge public funds to Italian companies claiming to being ravaged by the corona virus:
C’è il rischio che la criminalità possa approfittare del decreto Imprese. E intascare le somme destinate, attraverso prestiti, alle aziende in difficoltà a causa dell’emergenza coronavirus. Un rischio che va scongiurato, cambiando o integrando il provvedimento, per evitare che mafiosi, corrotti o evasori fiscali traggano vantaggio dalla crisi portata dal Covid-19. Anche a discapito degli imprenditori onesti.
There is a risk that criminals may take advantage of the Enterprise Decree. And pocket the money allocated, through loans, to companies in difficulty due to the coronavirus emergency. A risk that must be averted, by changing or supplementing the measure, to prevent mafiosi, corrupt people or tax evaders from taking advantage of the crisis brought by Covid-19. Even to the detriment of honest entrepreneurs
Roberto Saviano, of Gomorrha fame and Die Zeit author, reminds us:
Per osservare l’ultima epidemia che ha visto il crimine organizzato arricchirsi, bisogna andare indietro al 1884, quando Napoli fu devastata dal colera. Più del 50% dei decessi si registrò a Napoli. Affinché una simile strage non accadesse più, il Parlamento italiano approvò una legge per il risanamento della città di Napoli e stanziò 100 milioni di lire per le opere di bonifica. Da quel risanamento guadagnarono tutti: appaltatori corrotti e senza scrupoli, ditte che vincevano le gare al ribasso per poi eseguire lavori incompleti o di cattiva fattura, politici alleati delle famiglie di camorra. Tutti, tranne la città di Napoli. La relazione della Commissione d’inchiesta di Giuseppe Saredo del 1900 parlava già allora di un’opera di «alta camorra». Fu una speculazione così evidente che lo storico Pasquale Villari arrivò a dire: «Meglio il colera che il Risanamento».
To observe the last epidemy that saw organised crime get rich, one must go back to 1884, when Naples was devastated by the cholera. More than 50% of deaths occurred in Naples. In order that such a massacre would not happen again, the Italian Parliament passed a law for the restoration of the city of Naples and allocated 100 million lire for the improvement works. Everybody earned from that restoration: corrupt and unscrupulous contractors, companies that won the tenders with low offers and then carried out incomplete or shoddy works, politicians with ties to the Camorra families. All profited except the city of Naples. The report of Giuseppe Saredo's Inquiry Commission of 1900 already spoke of a work of the "high Camorra". It was such an obvious speculation that the historian Pasquale Villari went so far as to say: "Better cholera than restoration".
"They (the mafias) are providing everyday necessities in poor neighborhoods, offering credit to businesses on the verge of bankruptcy and planning to siphon off a chunk of the billions of euros being lined up in stimulus funds."
In order to understand Italy's current exposure to the cunning and wealth of the mafias, it is useful to remember the origin of the mafia in 18th century Sicily. In those days, the island was governed by Spanish viceroys who treated it as one among many Spanish colonies. Governors of Mexico or Peru could be transferred to Palermo and vice versa, and with them relocated the Spanish court and bureaucracy.
Small wonder that the local population showed little sympathy and respect for the oppressive and haughty Spaniards. In order to mislead the sbirre, the police serving the Spanish rule, the population developed a secret language, a dialect full of double meanings which remains traditional to this day.
Denis Mack Smith, the great British historian, in his History of Sicily described how in the 18th century the local Sicilian clergy of the Beati Paoli established a secret shadow administration competing with the Spanish rule. The purpose of this secret government was to permit some degree of equitable justice, to protect the people from oppression and to counteract the brutality of the sbirre.
This parallel government of the Beati Paoli later morphed into a tool of criminals known as Mafia or Cosa Nostra but never quite abandoned its orginal mission of a being government of the people serving the people.
With the emergency created in the deep South by the current virus lockdown, the "Mafia groups returning to their core businesses of protection and governance", as Zora Hauser, a researcher into organized crime at Oxford University, said.
After the end of the Spanish rule and the Kingdom of the two Sicilies, southern Italy became dominated by the northern monarchy of Savoy. The rulers had changed but the people again felt exploited and oppressed and continued to look for the mafias as their real government. A basic feeling which continues strong to this day.
"In tante parti si sente uno degli effetti di questa pandemia, che tante famiglie che hanno bisogno fanno la fame. Purtroppo li 'aiuta' il gruppo degli usurai. Questa è un'altra pandemia sociale: famiglie di gente che ha lavoro giornaliero o purtroppo in nero con figli e non hanno da mangiare e poi gli usurai prendono loro il poco che hanno".
"In many regions, one of the effects of this pandemic is that so many families in need are starving. Unfortunately, the bunch of usurers "helps" them. This is another social pandemic: there are families of day laborers or unfortunately those working as black labor who have children but no food and then the usurers take away what little they have".
Update II : 376 Mafia bosses and drug dealers
I 376 boss scarcerati: ecco la lista riservata che allarma le procureMandati a casa nell’ultimo mese e mezzo a causa della pandemia. Da Palermo a Napoli, a Milano
The 376 bosses released. Here's the confidential list that alarms the prosecutors...
Sent home in the last month and a half because of the pandemic. From Palermo to Naples to Milan.