ROME – Italian mafia clans are taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to buy aid with poor families facing financial ruin, prosecutors and officials say, and offer loans and food in what are seen as ancient recruitment tactics.
After decades of campaigning to curb the influence of the mafia in the traditional fortress of southern Italy, officials and charity groups say the pandemic has created new opportunities for organized crime to regain public loyalty.
“We know that ‘friends’ families, all of whom are moneylenders, are willing to give money to people who are in trouble,” said Amedeo Scaramella, using the euphemism with which the criminal syndicate of Camorra is known.
Scaramella, a lawyer through training, heads the San Giuseppe Moscato Foundation, a Catholic group in Naples who fights against moneylenders, in part by guaranteeing bank loans to people who are usually considered credit risk.
He told Reuters that sharks started by offering loans at competitive rates with banks and then trapped borrowers by pushing them up to 300%.
Federico Cafiero De Raho, Italy’s national anti-mafia prosecutor, said his agents had noticed suspicious activity in Naples including the Camorra clan distributing free food to families cash strapped by national locking.
“We have proof,” De Raho told Reuters, refusing to give details because the investigation was ongoing.
Past experience shows that the gang can ask for payment for such donations in the future by asking recipients to carry out activities such as transporting drugs, he said.
“Camorra knows this is the right time to invest.”
HARD TO TRY
Napoli charity worker Antonio Lucidi said the charity “L’Altra Napoli” (The Other Naples) had collected more than 150,000 euros ($ 163,065) to deliver food to families in need so they would not have to receive it from the masses during the closure.
“When hunger becomes a real problem, it’s hard to resist temptation,” he told Reuters.
The Italian government has promised 400 million euros in welfare for the poor, including issuing food stamps for those who cannot afford to shop.
Officials believe that the coronavirus has seriously disrupted the mass economy, in part because the shutdown makes it difficult for criminals to move.
“The collapse of the drug trade has caused serious damage,” said Michele Emiliano, governor of the southern Puglia region and former judge.
Nicola Gratteri, one of Italy’s most famous prosecutors who has been living on a 24-hour police escort because of her investigation of the ‘Ndrangheta clan in southern Calabria, said the mob was more than willing to help small businesses keep afloat now or start again. then.
“Mobster can buy this property (if the loan is not repaid) and use it for money laundering,” he told Reuters. “Mobster wants fewer collateral for loans, because for them the main guarantee is the lives of the victims.”
(Editing by Philip Pullella and Mike Collett-White)
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