Mafia is boss in Italy

In an economic crisis, citizens look to the stalwarts of their economy for a little reassurance. But in Italy, the size and resiliency of a famous home-grown business may or may not be so encouraging. That business, as you may have guessed, is organized crime. A new report from the industry group Conferescenti estimates that ...

591522_081113_mafia2.jpg
591522_081113_mafia2.jpg

In an economic crisis, citizens look to the stalwarts of their economy for a little reassurance. But in Italy, the size and resiliency of a famous home-grown business may or may not be so encouraging. That business, as you may have guessed, is organized crime.

A new report from the industry group Conferescenti estimates that the mafia's combined revenues of 130 billion euros ($163 billion) for 2008 make it the largest business in Italy, comprising a whopping 6 percent of the economy.

Favorite mafia activities such as drug trafficking, loan sharking, and extortion still make up the bulk of the profits (doing construction in Naples? That'll be 10,000 euros a month to make sure no "accidents" happen), but like any shrewd business, the mafia has branched out. The illegal disposal of waste is second only to the drug business as a money-earner, and even legitimate business such as tourism, restaurants, and food production are now on the books.

In an economic crisis, citizens look to the stalwarts of their economy for a little reassurance. But in Italy, the size and resiliency of a famous home-grown business may or may not be so encouraging. That business, as you may have guessed, is organized crime.

A new report from the industry group Conferescenti estimates that the mafia’s combined revenues of 130 billion euros ($163 billion) for 2008 make it the largest business in Italy, comprising a whopping 6 percent of the economy.

Favorite mafia activities such as drug trafficking, loan sharking, and extortion still make up the bulk of the profits (doing construction in Naples? That’ll be 10,000 euros a month to make sure no “accidents” happen), but like any shrewd business, the mafia has branched out. The illegal disposal of waste is second only to the drug business as a money-earner, and even legitimate business such as tourism, restaurants, and food production are now on the books.

The concern is that a worsening economy could drive businesses further into the mafia’s hands. A tighter credit environment means businesses may turn increasingly toward organized crime for loans, which it is all too glad to provide, albeit on very severe terms. It may be a comfort to know someone will support your business during hard times, but the consequences for the community are not as soothing.

Photo: FRANCESCO PISCHETOLA/AFP/Getty Images

Jerome Chen is a researcher at Foreign Policy.
Tag: Italy

More from Foreign Policy

A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.

Lessons for the Next War

Twelve experts weigh in on how to prevent, deter, and—if necessary—fight the next conflict.

An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It’s High Time to Prepare for Russia’s Collapse

Not planning for the possibility of disintegration betrays a dangerous lack of imagination.

An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.
An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.

Turkey Is Sending Cold War-Era Cluster Bombs to Ukraine

The artillery-fired cluster munitions could be lethal to Russian troops—and Ukrainian civilians.

A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol  January 8, 2009 in Washington.
A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol January 8, 2009 in Washington.

Congrats, You’re a Member of Congress. Now Listen Up.

Some brief foreign-policy advice for the newest members of the U.S. legislature.