Organized crime has reached such epidemic proportions in Italy that the Mafia now has larger cash reserves than any of the country's banks, a report claims Wednesday.
Business trade group Confesercenti said the Mafia currently rakes in more than $180 billion each year. That's more than seven per cent of Italy's GDP and it's all happening tax free, the report says.
It's believed the Mafia has cash reserves of $84 billion on hand — more than any legitimate Italian lender. "The Mafia is Italy's No. 1 bank," says a statement from Confesercenti.
As a result of the financial crisis, the four largest Mafia groups have broken out of their traditional strongholds in the south and other local regions and are involved in almost every aspect of Italy's economy, the report says.
The group says the Mafia commits an illegal act every minute in the country, and small and medium-sized businesses are disproportionately hurt by the illegal activity.
The financial crisis that began in 2008 caused conventional banks to reduce lending, which has driven desperate business owners to loan sharks in pursuit of capital.
Once a business succumbs and either borrows money or pays protection money, its failure is often usually only a matter of time.
The few entrepreneurs who complain are often abandoned by politicians, banks and even friends and family, the group's president Lino Busa says.
Confesercenti estimates some 200,000 businesses have fallen victim to loan-sharking from organized crime in Italy in the last three years alone.
Money laundering is also rampant through businesses in Italy's largest city, Rome, where organized crime never used to be as prevalent.