As the coronavirus lockdown in Italy has left people without jobs and without the ability to feed themselves, the Mafia has been delivering food to those in need.
Italy is one of the world’s worst affected countries by the virus and is in its second month of lockdown. Only Spain and the United States have more confirmed cases of COVID-19, and only America has recorded more deaths.
In 2019, Italy implemented a Basic Income program. But the coverage is limited and many people in need did not qualify for aid.
Last month Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced an economic stimulus program. But again this has not yet reached all those citizens in need.
With people desperate to eat, especially in the poorer south of the country – the Mafia’s base, the crime syndicate have been helping to alleviate the problem by handing out food parcels.
There have also been reports of the Mafia offering ‘interest-free’ lending to struggling businesses.
Are there strings attached, is there a ‘return on investment’ plan for the Mafia?
The burning issue is, why are they doing this, and what do they hope to gain?
Italian authorities strongly believe there is a sinister ulterior motive at play.
The Italian minister of the interior, Luciana Lamorgese said: “The Mafia could take advantage of the rising poverty, swooping in to recruit people to its organization.”
Nicola Gratteri, anti-mafia investigator and head of the prosecutor’s office in Catanzaro, added:
“Mafia bosses consider their cities as their own fiefdom. The bosses know very well that in order to govern, they need to take care of the people in their territory.
“And they do it by exploiting the situation to their advantage. In the people’s eyes, a boss who knocks on the door offering free food is a hero.
“And the boss knows that he can then count on the support of these families when necessary. When, for example, the Mafia sponsors a politician for election who will further their criminal interests.”
In a report from 2018, it was revealed that the Mafia have been extending their influence into food production. Using it as a means to conduct legitimate business and also to potentially launder money.
This control over the food industry could now offer them an even greater position of strength in the current unstable environment.
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