The 10th annual report from Confesercenti, the country's leading retail association, has claimed that 'Mafia Inc has now leapfrogged the state-owned energy giant, Eni, as Italy's largest firm'.
"From weaving factories, to tourism to business and personal services, from farming to public contracts to real estate and finance, there is now a criminal presence in every economic activity," said a spokesman for Confesercenti. Italy's huge number of small, family-owned, businesses is particularly at risk of having to pay a "pizzo", or protection money, to the Mafia.
About 80 per cent of Sicilian businesses cough up a pizzo, of as much as 350 pounds a month. However, the burgeoning power of Cosa Nostra in Sicily, the Camorra in Naples, the Ndrangheta in Calabria
and the Sacra Corona Unita in Puglia, has led to the infiltration of bigger businesses as well.
"Companies listed on the stock market with headquarters in Milan and Turin are among the victims, not just small shops in the Naples suburbs," the report has pointed out.
The association has also claimed that the Mafia is particularly active in public works, where gangs control many of the workmen on construction sites.
"Impregilo, Italy's biggest engineering company, Condotte SpA, a water pipeline company and Italcementi, Europe's largest cement group, all pay off the Mafia," the report said. Tano Grasso, the Head of Italy's Anti-Racket Commission, said that businesses "increasingly prefer to collude with the Mafia".
"It is more convenient for them to pay up than to report them." When contacted, the spokesmen for all three companies denied the charges. However, because of a lack of evidence, the report did not include an estimate of the Mafia's annual income from drugs, which could be as high as 35 to 40 billion pounds, and prostitution.