Organised criminals have historically exploited poor communities in the region and fashioned themselves as an alternative to the state. Experts predict the COVID-19 epidemic causing devastation to Italians will be viewed by the Mafia as just another way to get ahead. Cabinet member Giuseppe Provenzano, who has responsibility for the south of the county, warned Mafia bosses could seem like the only help available to struggling business owners.
He said companies on the verge of bankruptcy could be offered “loans” which may be hard to refuse.
But in reality, the Mafia would look for more than just a return of the money.
General Giuseppe Governale told politico.eu the Mafia are known to seize an opportunity as soon as they sniff one out, regardless of where it emerges.
Mr Governale is the head of Italy’s Anti-Mafia Investigative Directorate (DIA), an FBI-style multiforce agency.
“The virus has demonstrated that it doesn’t respect frontiers, and the Mafia has demonstrated that it doesn’t either,” he said.
“It is like water, it moves wherever there is a gap.”
And Maurizio De Lucia, the chief prosecutor Messina, a city on the island of Sicily, also issued a warning about the inner workings of the Mafia.
He said the playbook they routinely follow is making a profit in moments of turmoil and crisis.
Mr De Lucia said the Mafia could exploit people’s fears by offering liquidity to businesses in exchange for shares.
He told politico.eu: “The Mafia offers a loan to a business owner who needs money.
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“He knows who he is dealing with but thinks he can manage the situation. He is mistaken.”
Mr De Lucia explained how gangsters would slowly move in to take over the company.
Their first move would seem pretty innocent as they would ask the owner to hire a person of their choice.
After their candidate has joined the workforce he would start calling the shots and makes clear who is really in charge.
The end usually plays out with the owner objecting to new demands, while the Mafia would point out that they are essentially the new owners of the firm.
Italy remains the hardest-hit European country by the coronavirus crisis.
A total of 135,586 people in the country have contracted COVID-19.
On Tuesday officials reported 604 new deaths.
The death toll stands at 17,127.
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