21 June 2010
One of the biggest recent trials of alleged mafia gangsters in Italy is to continue following a major investigation into mob crime. The mafia has allegedly extended its reach from the south to the richer north.
Click to hear the report:
Milan's mayor says the mafia doesn't exist in Italy's fashion capital. That view is not shared by prosecutors who say criminals from Italy's deep south are hard at work in the city and its hinterland. 39 alleged members of the little known but powerful Calabrian mafia, the 'Ndrangheta, are on trial. They're accused of extortion, loan-sharking and robbery, and of cultivating a climate of fear more often associated with the back streets of Naples or Palermo than Milan.
Prosecutors say such is the terror they inspire that only three victims out of 50 have so far agreed to give evidence. Milan and the region of Lombardy, of which it is capital, has obvious attractions for the 'Ndrangheta. Whereas Calabria is the poorest region of Italy, Lombardy is the richest. It also has a large émigré Calabrian community - people who moved north to find work - some of whom are prepared to help criminals from their home region.
The recession has added to the allure, providing opportunities for mafia godfathers to buy up failing, legitimate businesses in order to launder their ill-gotten gains. And Italian crime-watchers say the prospect of the World Trade Fair, which Milan is due to host in 2015, has the bosses licking their lips in anticipation of the rich pickings there for the taking.
So powerful has the 'Ndrangheta become in the north, according to one senior anti-mafia prosecutor, that Milan is now the capital of organised crime in Italy.
Mark Duff, BBC News, Milan
Click to hear the vocabulary:
part of the country that's far away from the major city areas
using violence or threats against someone to get something
illegally lending money and charging very high rates of interest
- cultivating a climate of fear
making people feel frightened
- the back streets
the older and poorer parts of a town or city
- such is the terror they inspire that
people are so frightened of the 'Ndrangheta that
- added to the allure
made something (here, 'Ndrangheta activities) seem more attractive
- launder their ill-gotten gains
transfer money through a foreign bank or business to hide its illegal origin
- licking their lips in anticipation of
looking forward to or anticipating something very much
- organised crime
illegal activities which are controlled and carried out by a large and powerful group of criminals