In Credit Crisis, Italians Turn to Mafia

Uncle Tony will be happy to lend you this money you need for a very reasonable APR
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 16, 2009 12:54 PM CDT
A policeman in Palermo, Sicily, looks on by graffiti on the city's cathedral, portraying Matteo Messina Denaro, a fugitive Mafia boss. The writing says: "Messina Denaro The Last One!"   (AP Photo)
camera-icon View 3 more images

(Newser) – In Italy, there’s one industry profiting from the credit freeze: Organized crime. Thanks to its unparalleled liquidity, the mafia has become the lender of choice for many small Italian businesses, NPR reports. An estimated 180,000 have turned to so-called “stranglers,” or loan sharks, who charge annual interest of as much as 120%. It’s become the mob’s fastest-growing business.

Business has been so profitable that the mob’s been able to expand its operations, which already account for about 6% of Italy’s GDP. “The mafias already own large slices of the country. In Southern Italy they’re in total control,” says one analyst. Now the mob’s sneaking into the North “without alarming society. It has the reassuring face of the businessman making investments.”