Italy will receive 13.5 billion euros from the European Union Recovery Fund, but there are already signs that most of this amount, designed to serve the purpose of mitigating the damage done by the coronavirus, will end up in the hands of the mafia.
There is growing concern among the people, as experience shows that in recent years the clans have already perfectly mastered the art of winning EU funds in tenders (competitions).
An agreement was reached at the European Council summit on Thursday on the Union's long-term budget and associated Recovery Package. As part of the latter, the European Union is offering member states € 750 billion in aid to compensate for the damage caused by the coronavirus epidemic, of which € 13.5 billion is for Italy.
But will the money get where it really is needed? This question was raised by the portal of the German state Deutsche Welle TV channel.
According to the portal, there are already signs that local criminal organizations are preparing to take the money of the country hardest hit by the epidemic, and people are, of course, increasingly worried about this.
“The despair is palpable because the situation is already quite dramatic, as there is growing concern that the amount of aid will be spent in areas that would not serve the interests of citizens,” said Giuseppe Scognamillo, host of Radio Siani.
According to him, the fears are far from unfounded, but rather due to experience, because the money of the national recovery funds, created after natural disasters or economic crises, until now through tender procedures ended up in the pockets of bandits who are in collusion with local political forces.
"The clans have already mastered the art of seeking such resources and know how and where to apply pressure," said Scognamillo.
This problem is especially felt in southern Italy, where EU funds have already become synonymous with easy money-raising opportunities for the mafia clans of the Calabrian Ndrangheta, Neapolitan Camorra, and Sicilian Cosa Nostra.
Between 2014 and 2020, the EU allocated 77 billion euros to Italy from structural and investment funds. In 2018, an investigation by the Evaluation Office of the Italian Senate and the Italian Financial Guard revealed that in six out of ten cases, this aid fell into the hands of scammers and organized crime.
85% of this type of abuse, based on the use of structural funds, took place in southern Italy.
According to Deutsche Welle, violations related to EU funds can be seen as widespread in Europe. To combat such abuses, the EU has its own body that monitors the effectiveness of the use of funds: the European Office against Fraud (OLAF).
According to OLAF data, which analyzed the period 2015-2019, the most fraudulent activities involving EU funds were committed in Spain (11029), Poland (5017), and Romania (4968).
In any case, the Italian mafia also managed to on the pandemic chaos. This is evidenced by the fact that in Italy a separate government agency has already been created, namely the extraordinary government commissioner for the fight against usury. Annapaola Porzio, who took office, said back in September that in a health emergency, the mafia is expanding significantly, tying financial support to families (people) and buying up businesses.
Criminal organizations are able to provide immediate and almost unlimited financial assistance to people left without income as a result of the pandemic. In exchange for "credit", the mafia is not asking for anything yet, but it significantly increases its authority and extends its tentacles to society and economic processes (business) in general. This could have serious consequences, Annapaola Porzio said.
An extraordinary government commissioner, appointed to strengthen the authorities' administrative measures against usury and to protect finances, described the silence in recent months as frightening. In other words, this means that there are fewer reports of racketeering (blackmail) or threats from organized crime.
The government commissioner said the mafia has also adapted to the epidemic and is acting "less aggressive, but more convincing."
Read the original text at Magyar Nemzet