Times are so tough in Italy that Mafiosi are considering getting jobs

Italy’s economic downturn means mobsters have fewer businesses to extort

Michael Day
Monday 21 April 2014 00:37

Changing attitudes and a lingering economic crisis are hitting the Mafia where it hurts, say law enforcement authorities in Palermo, where a mob boss has been secretly recorded complaining about the collapse of extortion rackets.

Video cameras have shown jailed Cosa Nostra boss Giovanni Di Giacomo, lamenting that these days his men are only able to get a “miserable”, €5,000 to €7,000 a month from hotels and businesses that he targets. He added that with so many establishments closing down, and so many people refusing to pay and instead calling the police, it “might not be worth the bother”.

Even more remarkably, Di Giacomo, a senior figure in the powerful Porta Nuova clan, suggested the situation was so grim for mobsters seeking to earn a dishonest living that it might be better for some struggling young clan members to “get a real job” instead.

A year-long probe led by Palermo prosecutors Francesca Mazzocco and Caterina Malagoli has observed Di Giacomo, in a prison in Parma in northern Italy, continually addressing economic concerns with jailed colleagues and in written correspondence as he tries to get a grip on the organisation’s finances.

“Guaranteeing support for the families of those behind bars and their earnings had become an obsession for the bosses. It’s the only way to assert their leadership and maintain the cohesion of the organisation,” Captain Piero Iannotti, of the Palermo Carabinieri, told La Repubblica.

Di Giacomo was also caught railing against the governor of Sicily, Rosario Crocetta, and in particular his spending review for the cash-strapped island region. “Crocetta, fuck, what a disaster he’s caused. He’s cutting everywhere,” he said.

Mr Crocetta has a reputation as an ardent opponent of Cosa Nostra, unlike some of his predecessors who have been accused and, in some cases, convicted of Mafia association. “Hotels are closing, changing management, there’s no longer the work, the building sites,” the mobster was overheard telling an associate.

Di Giacomo said he was planning to ruin the business of the celebrated Palermo chef Natale Giunta, who refused to pay protection money – and whose evidence sent several mobsters to jail. The anti-racket organisation AddioPizzo was also to be the target of “some pranks” according to the conversation overheard by investigators

His comments follow news last year that Cosa Nostra’s own “spending review” was causing serious discontent within the organisation. The axe was thought to have fallen on hand-outs to junior mobsters, family members and hangers-on.

It was reported that only the big Mafia bosses were being spared the mob social security cuts. Those worst affected have been the relatives of jailed mobsters, prompting their wives and girlfriends to lead the backlash.

At the start of the recession it was predicted that organised crime in Italy might prosper from the economic downturn, with the likelihood that businesses caught in the credit crunch would be forced to accept offers of finance from underworld sources.

These developments, however, and claims of collapsing extortion rackets, suggest mobsters relying on old-school methods of making money are being hit hard by the drawn-out recession.

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