The Mafia Is Italy's Biggest Business

Organized crime is the biggest business in Italy, according to the latest study by the country's shopkeepers association, Confesercenti.

That Italy's mafias do a booming business, particularly the drug-related variety, is common knowledge. But the effect on the country's legitimate businesses such as tourism and food production had not been as clear until the Confesercenti released the figures, which are staggering.

Italy's four organized-crime syndicates -- Sicily's Cosa Nostra, the Camorra in Naples, Calabrian 'Ndrangheta, and the Sacra Corona Unita in Puglia -- together make up a "huge holding company with a total [sales] turnover of about 130 billion euros [about $165 billion] and profits approaching 70 billion euros [about $90 billion]," after investments and expenses, according to the study.

They are, effectively, the biggest company in Italy. "Everyday, organized crime takes some 250 million euros (about $317.5 million) away from retailers and businessmen," the study said. "The equivalent of 10 million euros [about $12.7 million] an hour, or 160,000 euros [about $203,000] a minute."

Drug trafficking is still the main source of income for organized crime, bringing in 59 billion euros a year, or about $75 billion. That's followed by what's known in Italy as "ecomafia," or the illegal disposal of waste, which contributed to the recent garbage crisis in Naples.

Loan-sharking is third. It is a more recent activity for organized crime but, in a short time, it has become its biggest source of income from the business sector and it continues to grow, according to the report.

"The number of businessmen who have fallen victim to this crime has risen to some 180,000 and the offer of loans at high interest rates has created a [sales] turnover of around 15 billion euros [about $19 billion] for organized crime," the study noted

Extortion comes next, in the form of the "pizzo" -- as protection money is called -- extorted by the mob from businesses big and small, under the threat of ruin, arson and physical harm. This branch of the business is not growing, however, but only because of "a general decline in the number of legal enterprises and a rise in those controlled by mafia organizations."

The mobsters' business interests have also gone beyond the "traditional" extortion, contraband and drug dealing and infiltrated deeper into important sectors of the legitimate economy such as tourism, restaurants and food production.

Roberto Saviano, the best-selling author of "Gomorrah," which is about the Camorra -- the crime organization that operates in the area around Naples -- told ABC News in a recent interview that the Camorra is present in every kind of commercial activity.

"It is, above all, a business organization," Saviano told ABC News.com, "in the sense that it is made up of managers, managers in the cement industry, the transport industry, managers in the industry of bread making, of pots and pans, of milk production."

The commercial empire of the combined mafias is worth about 92 billion euros (about $117 billion) a year, or 6 percent of the economy, according to Confesercenti.

Mafia businesses are set up like any other company, with a business structure that includes a CEO, managers, department heads and consultants.

The study, which gets its information from the Confesercenti's large network of members, even gives estimates on salaries of mafia members.

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