Italian Mafia has 'larger annual budget than European Union'

Brutal recession and banks' reluctance to lend leaves more businesses turning to mob for help

LAST UPDATED AT 12:42 ON Thu 27 Mar 2014

ITALY'S Mafia groups have a bigger annual budget than the European Union, the country's foreign ministry has claimed.

Giovanni Brauzzi, security policy director at the ministry, claims the Mob's annual income has passed the €200bn (£166bn) mark compared with the total EU spend of €140bn (£116bn).

His estimate marks a 43 per cent increase from the figure produced by the Confesercenti, an organisation of Italian businesses, which in 2012 claimed that the Mafia generated an annual turnover of €140bn (£116bn).

The Confesercenti report described the Mafia as the "biggest bank" in the country with €65bn in liquidity and said a growing number of small and medium sized businesses were coming into contact with the Mob.

Experts have warned that Italy's brutal recession, combined with its banks' reluctance to lend money, has left more and more businesses turning to organised crime for help.

Speaking at a conference in Brussels this week, Brauzzi said that crime syndicates in Italy had also begun to shift their "investments" overseas, with just 10 per cent of their budget still parked within the country. "The rest they invest in countries in Europe and elsewhere," he said. "They have good friends everywhere."

Organised crime has infiltrated "the most important companies working in financial transactions", he said. "Corruption is the easiest way of doing business in their framework."

The news comes as the centre-right Forza Italia party, led by disgraced former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, was this week accused of trying to destroy a bill aimed at stopping the Mafia's ability to sell votes to corrupt politicians in the south of Italy, reports The Independent.

The money-for-votes racket is a key means by which the Mafia earns money and maintains power and influence.

The legislation, which has already passed through the Senate, is at risk of being smothered by 1,000 or so amendments from Forza Italia MPs. · 

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