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Tuesday, 14 November, 2000, 15:10 GMT
Mafia 'gripping Italian economy'
Mafia killing near Naples
The Italian Mafia allegedly controls one in five businesses
Organised crime controls one business in five in Italy, according to statistics released by the country's leading trade association.

A conference organised by the association in Milan said that the Mafia controlled about 20% of all businesses.

It also had an annual turnover of about $133bn, the equivalent of 15% of GNP.


These businessmen talk a lot at conferences but not to the Prosecutor's Office

Milan chief prosecutor
A conference document said that counterfeiting also accounted for a large slice of Italian industrial production.

Only Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand and China reportedly earned more from illegally copying well-known internationally-branded products.

It said Mafia profits were being invested in real estate, clinics and retirement homes, supermarkets, hotels and restaurants.

And the fortunes made in these businesses would be "enough to pay off public debt, the ball and chain around Europe's ankle", the document added.

International failure

Sergio Bille, the president of Italy's business association, said not enough was being done internationally to combat organised crime.

The Mafia empire
20% of Italian businesses
15% of GNP
Combined capital of $800bn
More than $11bn investment in real estate
More than $11bn in financial investment
$15.5bn profits from counterfeiting and black market
And out of a combined capital of more than $800bn only 7% has been frozen and 3% actually confiscated, he was quoted as saying.

A senior police official said that countries which permitted offshore banking were to blame for the growth in criminal activities.

Scepticism

But Milan chief prosecutor Gerardo d'Ambrosio expressed scepticism about the allegations made at the conference.

"In order to beat the Mafia, we need the co-operation of businessmen, and they don't always give us concrete facts upon which we can act," he said.

"I haven't had a single complaint since I took up my post here - these businessmen talk a lot at conferences but not to the Prosecutor's Office."

The Mafia is notorious for gaining control of institutions by using a mixture of bribery and fear, and then murdering those that cross them.

Giovanni Falcone
Prosecutor Giovanni Falcone was murdered in 1992
Both anti-Mafia judge Paolo Borsellino and then top anti-Mafia prosecutor, Giovanni Falcone, were murderedd in 1992.

Justice eventually caught up with seven leading members of the Italian Mafia who were sentenced to life imprisonment in 1999 for their part in the murder of Borsellino.

Those convicted included the former godfather of the Sicilian Mafia, Salvatore Riina, known as The Beast, who is already serving several life sentences for other crimes.

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See also:

04 Apr 00 | Europe
Sicilian Mafia supergrass dies
22 Mar 00 | Europe
Blow in fight against Mafia
19 Jan 99 | From Our Own Correspondent
Living with the Mafia
19 Jul 98 | Europe
Mafiosi jailed for life
21 Mar 99 | Europe
Rally in Mafia stronghold
23 Oct 99 | Monitoring
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