From Bloomberg, January 30th:
Revenue raked in by Italy’s mob surged 40 percent last year, turning crime into the nation’s No. 1 business, Eurispes said in its annual report.
Income increased to 130 billion euros ($167 billion), up from about 90 billion euros in 2007, according to figures supplied by Eurispes and SOS Impresa, an association of businessmen to protest against extortion. Drug trafficking remains the primary source of revenue, bringing in about 59 billion euros, and the mob earned 5.8 billion euros from selling arms, the Rome-based Eurispes research group said today.
“During a crisis, people lower their guard,” Roberto Saviano, who wrote the bestseller “Gomorrah” about the Camorra crime bosses, said in an interview. “Studies show the criminal market never suffers during a crisis. I’m convinced that this crisis is bringing huge advantages to criminal syndicates.”
Organized crime groups siphon 92 billion euros, about 6 percent of Italy’s gross domestic product, from Italian businesses a year through protection payments, usurious interest rates on loans and other forms of extortion, Eurispes estimates. That works out to 250 million euros a day and 10 million euros an hour, Eurispes said. Italians are struggling to make mortgage payments and support their families as the worst recession since 1975 threatens jobs and makes banks more reluctant lenders.
“With people more desperate, loan sharks thrive,” Amedeo Vitagliano, an Italian crime expert at Eurispses, said in a telephone interview. “While the country is on its knees, the mob rejoices.”