Italy's mafia clans are using the coronavirus pandemic to gain favor among poor families facing financial ruin, prosecutors and officials say, and offer loans and groceries that are considered ancient recruiting tactics.
After decades of campaigning to curb the influence of the mafia in its traditional strongholds in southern Italy, the pandemic claims that officials and non-profit groups have created new opportunities for organized crime to regain people's loyalty.
"We know that 'families of friends', all loan sharks, are committed to giving money to people in difficulty," said Amedeo Scaramella with a euphemism, known among the clans of the Camorra criminal syndicate are.
Scaramella, a trained lawyer, heads the San Giuseppe Moscato Foundation, a Catholic group in Naples that fights against loan shark, including by guaranteeing bank loans to people who are usually considered credit risks.
He told Reuters that the sharks first offered loans at interest rates that compete with banks, and later included borrowers by increasing them to 300%.
Federico Cafiero De Raho, Italy's national anti-mafia prosecutor, said his agents had noticed suspicious activity in Naples, including Camorra clans that distributed free food to families who were out of money due to the national ban.
"We have evidence," De Raho told Reuters, declining to provide details as the investigation is ongoing.
Past experience suggests that the mob may request repayment for such a size in the future by asking recipients to undertake activities such as drug transport, he said.
"The Camorra knows that this is the right time to invest."
HARD TO TRY
The charity worker of Naples, Antonio Lucidi, said his charity "L & # 39; Altra Napoli" (The Other Naples) collected more than 150,000 euros to deliver food to needy families so that they did not have to take them from the mob during the ban .
"When hunger becomes a real problem, it's difficult to resist temptation," he told Reuters.
Italy's government has promised 400 million euros of welfare for the poor, including the issuing of food vouchers for those who cannot afford to shop.
Officials believe that the corona virus has severely disrupted the mob economy, also because shutting it down has made it difficult for criminals to get around.
"The collapse in drug trafficking is causing serious harm," said Michele Emiliano, governor of the Southern Puglia region and former judge.
Nicola Gratteri, one of Italy's best-known prosecutors, who is living with a 24-hour police escort because of his investigation into the Ndrangheta clans in southern Calabria, said the mob was more than willing to help small businesses stay afloat or new to establish later.
"Gangsters can buy these properties (if loans are not repaid) and use them for money laundering," he told Reuters. "Gangsters want less credit guarantees because the main guarantee is the victim's life."
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