Mafia profits are set to grow once quarantine is lifted. It looks like the Italian Mafia, and for that matter mafia from all over the world, will significantly increase their profits due to the coronavirus pandemic by way of adapting their drug networks and seizing new business opportunities.
As Italy desperately struggles to deal with and come to terms with the huge numbers of sick people and drastically increasing death toll from COVID-19, they must also come to terms with the influence of the established mafia organizations.
According to Robert Saviano, author of Gomorrah says “The market sectors the Italian mafia organizations control are expanding with the pandemic. The mafias will triple their profits from all this, because the sectors in which they have invested, and which they now control in many areas, are growing.”
Police are investigating mafia groups in Italy who they believe are using the dark web to sell medical-grade face-masks which were originally intended for hospitals. With an estimated turnover of €120 billion per year, they wield significant power including an increasing influence on the grocery supply.
Just before the lockdown in Italy was mandatory, people quickly prepared to be isolated for an unknown period of time. This created an environment that enabled the mafia to sell their existing stock of drugs for highly inflated prices. They also anticipate a huge spike in drug sales once the quarantine is lifted.
“As the crisis started, they were able to sell every type of drug, even their old loaf, at much higher than average prices as people stocked up,” Saviano says.
“The lack of checks at the ports during the pandemic means drugs will be able to travel more easily. Once the quarantine ends, the movement of drugs will be at the highest levels ever.”
The mafia is already getting around the quarantine and restrictions of movement imposed by the government by posing as pizza delivery drivers, according to Nicola Gratteri, a national anti-mafia prosecutor.
“The retail sales of drugs is slower because the cities are under quarantine, but now drug dealers in Italian cities dress up as delivery food drivers and deliver drugs to their homes,” he says.
Unfortunately, it is also predicted there will be an increase in Mafia-linked extortion and violence as the world tries to recover from the virus and the financial destruction left in its wake.
“The economic crisis that will result from this pandemic is the most worrying thing,” Mr. Gratteri says. “The closures of restaurants, hotels, and pizzerias will have a devastating effect. If money does not come from the state soon, many will fail. And in order not to fail, business owners could turn to criminal organizations, which use the money from the sale of drugs to make loans at extraordinarily high-interest rates.”
We only have to look back to 2008 to get an idea of how the mafia is going to react to this crisis. Back then they showed their significant power and influence by using their huge stockpiles of capital to buy out or “rescue” companies that were going bust. After the pandemic is over, the same is expected to happen in Italy, and for that matter, anywhere in the world organized crime is active.
“The mafia is sure to offer credit and capital to entrepreneurs struggling with the pandemic. It happened back in 2008 with the financial crisis. Italy will have to deal with criminal organizations and as a government, we will have to do everything we can to fight it,” says Nicola Morra, a senator and the chairman of the parliamentary anti-mafia commission.
Although there are some that say the pandemic is hurting organized crime, it is becoming much more widely believed that ultimately it will bring them even more wealth.