While the mafia has long been associated with Italy’s poorer southern regions and Sicily, there is now strong evidence to suggest that the tentacles of organized crime in Italy have well and truly penetrated Italy’s economic powerhouse – Milan. This penetration has occurred slowly and silently, but has not gone unnoticed.
Writer of mafia expose Gomorrah, Roberto Saviano claimed that the evidence of the mafia moving north was there for all to see, but he was told that he did not know what he was talking about by people who should have known better. I myself wrote about the mafia moving north earlier this year.
Yesterday, Italian newspaper and website Il Fatto Quotidiano carried an article on mafia arrests in Milan and another northern stronghold, Brescia. It was believed that these two major northern Italian population centers were impervious to mafia penetration. Well, they were not as the recent arrests show.
Milan prosecutor Ilda Boccassini was involved in setting up a recent swoop which netted, amongst others, a supposed anti-mafia magistrate based in Calabria. This magistrate, one Vincenzo Giglio, is suspected of feeding information to a Milan based ‘ndrangheta mafia group know as the Valle clan.
Also rounded up in the swoop were Vincenzo Minasi, a lawyer and Francesco Morelli, an elected member of the Calabrian regional government. Morelli, it happens, was elected thanks to a Berlusconi-PdL party list. Obviously Berlusconi did not pay too much attention to who belonged to his party. Maybe he knew, maybe he did not.
At the bottom of the list of those arrested was Luigi Mongelli, a member of Italy’s financial police the Guardia di Finanza no less. Mongelli was probably responsible for keeping inquisitive eyes away from the tax affairs of the mafia operations.
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Italy’s mafia, or rather “mafias” are extremely sophisticated and know exactly who to recruit in order to keep their illicit activities out of the limelight and maximize their return on investment. The mafia discovered long ago how useful friendly politicians can be. Indeed, organized crime in Italy has been known to ensure its members are voted into politically useful positions.
While links between politicians and organized crime are nothing new in Italy, there seems to be no sign of any reduction in the number of these unholy alliances. The reason why the mafia befriends politicians or installs its own in positions of power are to enable it to make money on public works contracts and on refuse dumping. Both areas are extremely profitable for organized crime and both are damaging Italy.
Buildings or roads constructed by mafia nominated contractors are not subject to the health and safety controls such works would normally face owing to mafia friends in local government and relevant government departments turning a blind eye – permissions and approvals are automatically rubber stamped. Nobody in Italy really knows how many buildings or roads have been built with sub-standard materials or workmanship owing to mafia control. Unfortunately, it is only when problems arise, such as when buildings collapse that the truth comes to light. Seeing as these are public works contracts, the buildings which might collapse could well be schools or university buildings.
Then there is the dumping of illegal waste. Disposing of toxic waste costs money, but mafia run enterprises only charge around 50% of what the normal regulated market requests. Unscrupulous businessmen and others desperate to keep their businesses afloat in poor economic times find savings on refuse disposal too appetizing to resist. Only the toxic waste is not disposed of safely. Oh no. Instead it is dumped just about anywhere it can be hidden, or semi-official dumps are set up with the assistance of corrupt politicians and officials. Such dumps are given the go ahead by corrupt officials who simply write reports saying everything is OK. More automatic rubber stamping.
Disposing of waste and infiltrating public works are not the only way organized crime is making a quick million or three in Italy’s north.
Milan’s mayor Giuliano Pisapia, in an article which appeared in the Corriere Della Sera in late September 2011, claimed that around 6,000 businesses in Milan were paying the “pizzo”. No relation to pizza, the pizzo is basically protection money. Either you pay up or something bad will happen to your business, your family or you.
It is now crystal clear: the mafia has gained a firm foothold in Milan. There is no denying it. Roberto Saviano was right.