*Mafia digs in as Italy's biggest 'company'
*Mob thrives on credit crunch, unemployment
*May target bourse to launder profits
Italy's mafia crime syndicates bucked the recession in 2009 to raise 'profits' by almost 8 percent with the financial crisis making companies and even the stock market even more vulnerable to cash-flush mobsters.
"Mafia Inc. is reinforcing its position as the number one Italian company," said a report published on Wednesday by a body whose members bear the brunt of mafia extortion and crimes, the small business and shopkeepers' association Confesercenti.
It estimated that the impact on business equalled about 7 percent of Italy's economic output, enjoying healthy growth in a year when the Italian economy shrank by almost 5 percent.
Experts had predicted when the crisis began that Calabria's 'Ndrangheta, with its huge slice of the global drugs trade, Sicily's Cosa Nostra, Naples' violent Camorra and Puglia's Sacra Corona Unita would see more demand for loan-sharking.
But the report said mobsters had also been able to launder their earnings by buying up cheap assets and had found a cheap and willing workforce among the newly unemployed.
"In times of crisis the Mafia's money, even though it is dirty, makes people's mouth water," the report says.
Confeserscenti's research arm SOS Impresa, citing data from police, mob informants, magistrates, government agencies and its own network across the country, said the boom had been so strong that organised crime may target the bourse to launder its money.
"There is a risk the Mafia could take advantage of the difficulties of some large business groups who are undergoing a liquidity crisis to attempt to get into the stock market behind the scenes in a big way," said the report.
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It estimated the mob's joint turnover last year at 135 billion euros, topped by trafficking in drugs, people, weapons and contraband worth just under 68 billion euros. Second came "business" interests like public contracts, gambling, forgeries and supplying illegal labour at 25 billion euros, then extortion and loan sharking at 25 billion euros....MORE
HT: Foreign Policy's Passport blog
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