Italy’s Mob Extends Its Reach Into Daily Life
Organized crime in Italy has extended its reach into nearly every aspect of life, from coffee to livestock—and the recession is only making it stronger.
Every four hours, seven days a week, one of Italy’s organized-crime syndicates commits an unforgiveable offense against the environment. The crimes by the eco-mafia and agro-mafia run the gamut from the blatant dumping of toxic chemicals on protected national parkland and working farmland to the more subtle influence the mob has on everything from trucking and transportation to the illicit importation of fillers used in coffee, pasta, and even sugar.
“Coffee, water, fruit, bread, milk, meat, cheese, and even biscuits are all products of organized crime,” says author and journalist Roberto Saviano, who lives under police protection after receiving death threats from the Neapolitan Camorra, one of Italy’s Naples-based organized-crime syndicates. Other groups include Sicily’s Cosa Nostra and Calabria-based ‘Ndrangheta. “The breadbasket of the Camorra, Cosa Nostra, the ‘Ndrangheta touches every aspect of a typical day of an ordinary citizen. Every gesture, from the first that we do in the morning until dinner, may enrich the clan without our knowledge.”
Earlier this month, Italy’s foremost environmental group, Legambiente, issued its annual eco-mafia report on the mob’s illicit impact on the environment in 2011. Not only did eco-mafia crimes grow by 10 percent over the previous year but new categories were created, meaning the mob’s tentacles have reached even further into the fabric of Italian society thanks to a burgeoning economic crisis.
When banks and financial institutions are unwilling to help out small businesses, the mob fills the vacuum. Collectively, Italy’s various mob rings earned €16.6 billion in 2011, an astonishing figure considering the country’s deep recession. Nearly 20 local governments across Italy were taken over by mafia infiltration, according to the report, and there is a worrying increase in the illegal trafficking of art and lifestock, not to mention the rogue burning of over 150,000 acres of land to clear the way for illegal construction. According to Saviano, who wrote the preface for the eco-mafia report, no one cares. “The clans’ impact has been forgotten, removed, erased from the collective memory,” he says. “No one even remembers when this phenomenon started, it is so common now, like a faraway ghost.”