Italian gangsters have found a novel use for the latest mobile phone technology.
Video calls could be used to pry into the polling booth
They have come up with the idea of using third-generation (3G) video phones to manipulate the vote in forthcoming regional elections.
The elections are seen as an important political test for Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government as the outcome could affect the stability of centre-right coalition.
But the plan by Mafia organisations could be thwarted as the Italian authorities have announced measures to prevent 3G phones being used in polling stations.
Mafia groups have traditionally tried to influence elections in Italy to hold some sway over successful candidates.
In the past they have used a combination of the carrot and stick, offering bribes or threatening violence.
Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu has taken immediate measures to stave off any attempt to violate the secrecy of the vote, with particular reference to the use of 3G phones in polling stations
Interior Minister statement
The gangsters are now adopting 21st century technology to affect the outcome of forthcoming regional elections by using video phones.
The 3G phones would be used by a voter in the polling booth to send back images proving they had cast their ballot as instructed.
But the hi-tech electoral fraud could be stillborn, as the authorities have got wise to the idea.
"Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu has taken immediate measures to stave off any attempt to violate the secrecy of the vote, with particular reference to the use of 3G phones in polling stations," said a ministry statement.
No details of the planned measure have been given. But correspondents say voters could be asked to deposit their mobiles before heading into the ballot box.
Italians are known for their love of mobile phones, so it comes as no surprise that they are among the first consumers in the world to get their hands on new 3G phones.
Tens of thousands of video phones are said to have been sold in recent months by 3G network provider Hutchison.
The company hopes to have a million subscribers in Italy within a year.
The new handsets can handle huge quantities of data, like video clips, TV news broadcasts, share price information or city maps.
But it seems unlikely that the company ever considered they could be use for more nefarious purposes.