The light of a cigarette behind the half-open shutters of an abandoned house brought the Italian police to the mafia boss, whom they had been looking for for more than a week.
Shortly before that, the police stopped a certain man on the street of the remote Calabrian village of Brutstsano-Cefirio, which is at the very end of the Italian "boot". Patrols monitored the restricted mobility regime that the authorities introduced to contain the wave of coronavirus, occrp.org informed.
“The conditions and measures brought about by the current epidemiological emergency had fatal consequences for Cesare Antonio Cordi,” the police said after the arrest on March 12 of the 42-year-old alleged leader of the Ndrangheta clan from the neighboring city of Locri, one of the strongholds of this powerful criminal group.
The signor on Brutstsano-Cefirio Street then told the police that he was bringing food to his friend, but the house at the address he named turned out to be uninhabited. Wanting to check suspicions, the police took the house under surveillance.
“The faint light of a cigarette seen behind the closed shutters gave me enough confidence that the one we had been looking for for several days was in the house,” the police said in a statement.
After the arrest of Cordy, the question arises as to how the notorious formidable Italian mafia adapts to a situation where Italy is struggling to cope with the epidemic of coronavirus. As of March 24, the country has 59 thousand confirmed cases of infection, 5400 people have died.
According to experts, against the backdrop of increased police control, mafiosi have also become more difficult to act because of the government’s tough restrictive measures. By order of the authorities, many businesses stopped working, and residents are required to remain in their homes.
Mafia syndicates, such as the Sicilian goat Nostra or Calabrian ndrangheta, traditionally deliver illegal goods, including drugs, on merchant ships. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has not yet violated international smuggling channels, it has become more difficult to sell them after delivering drugs to Europe.
“Some drugs are still coming,” said Anna Sergi, a forensic expert at the University of Essex, UK. Especially, she said, this applies to cocaine, whose annual turnover in Europe, according to Europol, is 5.7 billion euros.
“The question is who should take and deliver drugs now,” the expert adds.
According to Sergi, restrictions on movement can lead to the fact that drugs will accumulate in ports, for example in Joya Tauro, which controls the ndrangeta. According to estimates by the Italian Commission against the Mafia, 80 percent of cocaine got into Europe through this sea gate in Calabria in 2006.
According to experts, Italian organized crime will suffer from the economic downturn in the country, but it may also find ways to profit from the crisis.
“When the economy collapses, or when the business stops, criminal groups also lose from this,” said Federico Varese, professor at Oxford University, author of several books on organized crime.
“I don’t think that now there is a lot of money that mafiosi can take their hands on. The longer the current situation lasts, the more difficult it will be for them to engage in their fishing, ”said Varese.
At the same time, he considers orders for the supply of medical equipment, which can be controlled by her company, to be the new likely source of income for the mafia. In addition, criminals may begin to buy distressed firms or lend money to their owners to support the business.
This is alarming for small business owners who risk becoming victims of the greed of the mafiosi.
“I am concerned about loans at predatory interest,” says Anna Sergi in this regard. “There will be entrepreneurs in a desperate financial situation, unable to pay employees, and in such a situation they would rather turn to illegal money lenders.”
According to Sergi, due to the growing economic problems of organized crime, it may be easier to find accomplices among carriers and convince them to cover smuggling.
“People in their usual workplace are now under pressure and stress,” says Sergi. “The economy is falling, so there will be more cases of corruption and left-wing income.”
At the same time, Sergi does not exclude that organized crime will use influence in their communities to help restrain coronavirus. It is even possible that the mafia, in contact with the authorities, will monitor compliance with quarantine restrictions.
At the same time, Sergi suggests that criminal bosses have a personal interest in ensuring that measures against the coronavirus in their estates are not violated: many of the dons are already old, and the virus threatens death primarily for the elderly.