Italy
x

    Profile

    Italy

    Capital

    Rome

    Gross domestic product (GDP)

    USD 2,003,576.15 million

    Income group

    High income

    Population

    60,302,093

    Area

    302,070 km²

    Geography type

    Coastal

    5.82

    Criminality score

    53rd of 193 countries

    6th of 44 countries in Europe

    1st of 8 countries in Southern Europe

    Criminal market

    5.25

    Human trafficking

    7.00

    Human smuggling

    6.50

    Arms trafficking

    5.50

    Flora crimes

    2.50

    Fauna crimes

    3.50

    Non-renewable resource crimes

    5.50

    Heroin trade

    4.50

    Cocaine trade

    7.50

    Cannabis trade

    5.00

    Synthetic drug trade

    5.00

    Criminal actors

    6.38

    Mafia-style groups

    9.00

    Criminal networks

    3.00

    State-embedded actors

    6.50

    Foreign actors

    7.00

    6.29

    Resilience score

    33rd of 193 countries

    22nd of 44 countries in Europe

    3rd of 8 countries in Southern Europe

    Political leadership and governance

    6.50

    Government transparency and accountability

    5.00

    International cooperation

    8.50

    National policies and laws

    8.00

    Judicial system and detention

    5.00

    Law enforcement

    7.50

    Territorial integrity

    6.50

    Anti-money laundering

    5.50

    Economic regulatory capacity

    5.00

    Victim and witness support

    5.50

    Prevention

    5.50

    Non-state actors

    7.00

    6.29 6.38 5.25 6.29 6.38 5.25

    6.29

    Resilience score

    33rd of 193 countries

    22nd of 44 countries in Europe

    3rd of 8 countries in Southern Europe

    Political leadership and governance

    6.50

    Government transparency and accountability

    5.00

    International cooperation

    8.50

    National policies and laws

    8.00

    Judicial system and detention

    5.00

    Law enforcement

    7.50

    Territorial integrity

    6.50

    Anti-money laundering

    5.50

    Economic regulatory capacity

    5.00

    Victim and witness support

    5.50

    Prevention

    5.50

    Non-state actors

    7.00

    Analysis

    01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09

    People

    Italy is an important destination country for human trafficking. While victims do include Italian nationals, the vast majority of trafficked individuals in Italy are foreign nationals, primarily for the purposes of sexual exploitation, forced labour and labour exploitation. The majority of sex-trafficking victims in Italy originate from Nigeria, although in recent years the number of Nigerian victims of trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation has declined. One of the most common methods for recruiting victims is through migrant and asylum-seeker reception centres, where potential victims are lured away by traffickers under false promises of either legitimate employment or the provision of gifts and excursions. Forced prostitution is controlled for the most part by Nigerian criminal networks known as ‘cults’, as the traditional Italian mafia groups choose to avoid participating in the more visible forms of organized crime, such as human trafficking. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on those involved in sex work. Traffickers abandoned women and children who were unable to leave their homes or work and unable to access state support, leaving them in dire economic difficulty. Furthermore, labour exploitation in the agricultural sector is particularly pervasive in southern Italy while, in the north, exploitation occurs predominantly in the construction, domestic-work and hospitality sectors.

    Italy is also a significant transit and destination country in the transnational human-smuggling market as a key component of the central Mediterranean migrant route. The overwhelming majority of migrants smuggled into southern Italian ports, on the island of Lampedusa in particular, depart from the North African coast – mainly Libya – and originate from countries stretching from West Africa through North Africa to the Horn of Africa. However, there are also a considerable number of smuggled individuals originating from the Middle East and Southern Asia. Overall, the phenomenon of migrant smuggling has drastically decreased since the height of the refugee crisis between 2014 and 2016.

    Trade

    Although arms trafficking is not the most profitable illicit trade for Italian organized criminal groups, the market’s significance and impact have been increasing over the past decades, with the ’Ndrangheta, the Sacra Corona Unita and the Albanian mafia playing key roles in the illicit arms trade in Italy. The criminal market for arms trafficking is highly transnational and the connections between Italian mafia groups and criminal groups in the Balkans are strong, with Italy playing a major role as a transit country on the Balkan arms trafficking route to Europe. Italian organized criminal groups have relied on partnerships with local criminal groups, trading drugs and firearms in return for allowing these other organizations to conduct their human-smuggling operations on Italian coasts. A considerable share of illicit firearms enters Italian territory overland, hidden in cars, vans and trucks, through northern Italy, especially via the eastern borders. Maritime routes have been used as a means of transport to evade customs controls, and large cargo ships have been replaced by small speedboats and sealed torpedoes towed by speedboats, which are left near the coast and later retrieved by the recipient with little risk.

    Environment

    The most pervasive environmental criminal market in Italy is that of non-renewable-resource crimes, with so-called ‘ecomafias’ increasing in prominence in recent times. This illicit market disproportionately targets the region of Campania, where organized criminal groups are active in soil and mining sectors to meet the demand of the country’s construction industry. There is also, albeit to a lesser extent, illegal activity pertaining to the importation of gold that involves criminal groups from Latin America, the illicit oil trade driven primarily by Libyan militias, and precious stones sourced illegally from the African continent.

    The flora and fauna crimes markets are far less pervasive in Italy, exerting only moderate influences on the state and wider society. While Italy is among the world’s largest importers of forest products, including from countries with substantial illicit timber industries, there is little involvement of organized criminality in the sector. Furthermore, the pervasiveness of legality risks in the timber supply chain is decreasing, largely as a result of a strengthened import and export control regime. With regard to fauna crimes, although the poaching of birds and other protected species is common in Italy, particularly of songbirds, as with flora crimes, it is not a consolidated criminal market in which highly organized criminal groups are involved. Rather, it is carried out on an ad hoc basis either as ingredients for traditional dishes or by opportunistic criminal entrepreneurs to sell abroad as pets. A similar dynamic can be witnessed with regard to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing practices, particularly in southern Italy.

    Drugs

    Cocaine is by far the most profitable illicit drug market in Italy. The country plays a hugely significant role in the transnational cocaine trade, which is largely dominated by the ’Ndrangheta, the powerful mafia group with strong ties to drug trafficking organizations in Latin America, primarily Colombia, as well as other countries in Europe, such as Albania. Cargo and container ships are the principal means of transporting cocaine to Italy, primarily from Colombia, but also from other countries in Latin America and Europe, including the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain. One of the most significant impacts of the cocaine trade in Italy is the way in which it has transformed the ’Ndrangheta into one of, if not the, most powerful criminal organizations in the world. Nevertheless, cocaine is far from the only illicit drug market exerting a significant influence in the country, with heroin playing an important role in Italy’s criminal landscape. Major Italian cities such as Milan, Naples and Rome are hotbeds for heroin that enters the country primarily from Afghanistan via other Asian countries and the Balkan region. However, despite a slight uptick in domestic heroin use recently, consumption levels remain fairly low and much of the heroin entering Italy moves on toward other European countries.

    Cannabis is the most seized drug in Italy, with heavy involvement from foreign criminal groups. Hashish trafficked to Italy originates primarily from Morocco, whereas marijuana enters the country predominantly via the eastern coast on the Adriatic Sea from Albania and Greece. The domestic mafia groups involved in the cannabis trade are chiefly those from the Puglia region, including the Società Foggiana and another group active around the Gargano sub-region of the country. Finally, Italy is also a destination country in the synthetic drug trade, which has grown significantly in the past decade. The main synthetic drugs found in Italy are amphetamines, methamphetamines, Ecstasy-type substances and, more recently, Fentanyl. The vast majority of synthetic drugs trafficked to Italy are produced in Northern Europe, predominantly Belgium and the Netherlands. However, due in large part to low profit margins, the traditional Italian mafia groups show far less interest in the synthetic drug market and, as such, the market is substantially less consolidated and sophisticated than other drug markets in the country.

    Criminal Actors

    Mafia-style groups are by far the most prevalent type of criminal actor in Italy, which is the birthplace of the original mafia groups. The most powerful mafia group in Italy is the Calabria-based ’Ndrangheta, one of the most potent and influential organized criminal groups in the world. Other powerful mafia groups in Italy are the Cosa Nostra in Sicily and the Camorra, a Campania-based mafia, as well as less powerful groups such as the Sacra Corona Unita and Società Foggiana, both based in the region of Apulia, and the Spada and Casamonica clans from Rome. All mafia groups in Italy have a strong degree of territorial control in their regions of origin, albeit to differing extents. Extortion practices are a fundamental element in mafia groups’ territorial control, in particular for the Cosa Nostra, who extort so-called ‘pizzo’ (protection money) from local businesses across Sicily. While the traditional mafia groups in Italy have extensive access to weapons, their employment of violence has declined in recent decades as the groups strive to remain under the radar of law-enforcement and state authorities. The decline in the use of violence is also a sign of the influence these groups wield, such that the mere threat of violence is enough to bend people to their will.

    All major mafia groups in the country are involved in a significant number of different criminal markets, primarily the transnational drug trade, but also counterfeit goods, arms trafficking and illegal waste disposal, as well as being deeply entrenched in the legal economy through their infiltration into the construction, food-distribution, agri-food, healthcare and renewable-energy sectors, among others. As a result of the strengthening of anti-mafia measures in Italy, mafia groups have turned to other European countries to launder their illicit proceeds, and none more so than the ’Ndrangheta, the group most integrated into financial systems across Europe. Finally, mafia groups in Italy are heavily entrenched within the democratic and political system in the country and have been from the very beginning of their existence. Mutually beneficial agreements between mafiosi and local politicians are regularly struck, and the infiltration of criminal actors within local political structures is widespread, as evidenced by the number of local administrations dissolved every year as a result of mafia infiltration.

    Because of the longevity and dominance of the traditional mafia organizations in Italy, the presence of loose criminal networks in the country is extremely limited. However, as the country where the mafia was born, Italy is now an import country of mafia groups almost as much as it is an exporter. There are a significant number of different foreign organized criminal groups now operating across Italy, the most prominent of which are the Albanian mafia and the Nigerian mafia, as well as organized criminal groups from other countries in Southern and South-eastern Europe, Russia, China and South America. The relationship between domestic and foreign organized criminal groups in Italy can be characterized as ‘tolerance and utilitarian collaboration’, with both parties in search of an economic advantage that would otherwise be hindered by violent conflict between groups. Foreign organized criminal groups do not control any criminal markets in Italy and their operations in the country are largely opportunistic and almost always sanctioned by the traditional Italian mafia groups.

    While state actors generally do not control criminal markets of any kind in Italy, the involvement of state-embedded actors within illicit economies is a widely recognized feature of the Italian organized-crime landscape. Cases of bribery and vote-buying by local politicians are common and collusion with criminal groups reaches the highest levels of the state. Corruption related to public procurement processes is widespread within the state apparatus, which allows criminal actors to benefit from lucrative public contracts to the detriment of public finances. Furthermore, collusion between law-enforcement officials and criminal actors, as well as the direct involvement of the former in criminal activity, is prominent in Italy.

    Leadership and governance

    Ever since the Tangentopoli scandal and the Mani Pulite judicial investigation into widespread political corruption and collusion with mafia organizations in the 1990s, the Italian government, across the number of different administrations in power, has always communicated a very strong position against the mafia and organized crime more generally. Italian political leaders consistently prioritize the fight against the mafia and have been successful in much of the work they have done in past years. However, the power of mafia groups in Italy is such that most government responses to the phenomenon of organized crime do not have the long-term consequences required to permanently stem mafia activity in the country. While government rhetoric is for the most part matched by government action, the high levels of embeddedness of criminal actors within the state apparatus –particularly at the local level – demonstrate the difficulties faced in eliminating the mafia. Anti-corruption legislation has developed significantly in the past decade, but criminal infiltration in the public procurement process remains pervasive.

    On the international stage, not only are the frameworks for cooperation extremely robust, but Italy is actively engaged in cooperation with the international community, including through cross-border judicial and law-enforcement cooperation. Domestically, Italy’s legislative framework is extremely attuned to the pervasiveness of mafia organizations and organized criminal activity more broadly in the country. The inclusion of a definition of ‘mafia’ as a specific type of organized crime is fundamental in the fight against the phenomenon, and to this day, Italy is one of the only countries in the world to explicitly define mafia-type crimes in its domestic legislation. Nevertheless, although the Italian legal framework is seen as a model for countries around the world, sections of the country’s legislation are obsolete and need updating to take into account developments in organized crime in recent years.

    Criminal justice and security

    The central position of Italy in the Mediterranean region makes Italian ports of crucial importance for both licit and illicit trade. Although Italy has a fairly competent infrastructure in place to monitor its borders for illicit cross-border activities, securing the borders remains a significant challenge. Corrupt practices among border-control agencies do exist but are not widespread, and the Ministry of the Interior has recently published a three-year plan for the prevention of corruption and for transparency in the administration of the ministry, including border patrol. However, the extent of criminal governance exerted within certain regions, namely Calabria, in which criminal actors control swathes of the population, political structures and businesses, is an illustration of the systemic failure on the part of the central government to ensure control over the entire territory.

    Italy’s principal anti-mafia law enforcement unit, the Direzione Investigativa Antimafia, has been hugely successful in terms of asset seizures, cash confiscation and arrests. The Guardia di Finanza, Italy’s financial crime investigative unit, and the Raggruppamento Operativo Speciale, the special operations group of the Carabinieri, also play a significant role in the fight against organized crime. However, the dismantling of an entire department of the Carabinieri in July 2020 following the arrest 10 officers on suspicion of a whole host of crimes, from drug dealing and extortion to abuse of power and even torture, is symbolic of the corruption and criminality that is not uncommon within Italy’s law enforcement agencies.

    Numerous institutions within the judicial system in Italy are tasked with combating organized crime, the most prominent being the National Anti-Mafia and Anti-Terrorism Directorate. The numerous convictions for organized-crime- and mafia-related crimes demonstrate that courts are able to effectively pass judgments against organized crime defendants. The most serious offenders of mafia-type offences are subjected to a special detention system known as the ‘41-bis prison regime’. The regime places severe restrictions on serious mafia offenders’ communication with the outside world. However, the considerable power of mafia individuals, when combined with corrupt practices, is such that mafia groups (and high-level leaders in particular) are known to be able to direct operations and give orders to associates from within their prison cells. Furthermore, the smuggling of contraband, including communication technologies that facilitate the mafiosi’s communication with associates on the outside, is common in many prisons across the country. However, the most pressing issue pertaining to the detention system in Italy is overcrowding.

    Economic and financial environment

    In central and southern Italy in particular, organized criminal groups extort local businesses, using intimidation and sometimes violence. While the pizzo traditionally took the form of a forced protection tax, many mafia groups have evolved their modus operandi to extort businesses by imposing on them a particular brand or supplier of goods that is controlled by the criminal actors themselves. Mafia involvement in a litany of economic sectors is systematic throughout Italy, including not only the traditional sectors such as construction and waste management but also the food sector at almost every stage of the supply chain. The COVID-19 pandemic has created vast opportunities for Italian mafia groups to further infiltrate the formal economy. With thousands of businesses suffering the economic toll of the coronavirus and the country’s associated lockdown measures, criminal actors seek to exploit their vulnerability either by offering them loans – the interest rates on which will subsequently be raised to extortionate levels – or by offering business owners the chance to cut their losses and allow criminal actors to take over their business completely, which is then used as a vehicle for money laundering.

    One of the key factors in the economic strength of Italian mafia groups is their ability to launder their illicit proceeds through the formal economy, both domestically and abroad. Indeed, criminal actors make more use of the formal economy than of financial institutions to launder their money. This is partly driven by the Italian government’s strengthening of the legal and institutional anti-money laundering framework. Recent years have seen the introduction of several new measures, including new controls for banks and financial intermediaries when dealing with clients from high-risk countries, improvements with regard to suspicious transaction reporting and developments in electronic-invoicing regulations.

    Civil society and social protection

    Broadly speaking, the ensemble of Italy’s civil-society and social-protection measures is moderately effective. Witness protection legislation is in force in the country and was improved in 2018. The government has also implemented a series of laws pertaining to victim protection during trials, and compensation for victims of human trafficking. Non-state actors, however, are the primary providers of most support services to victims of various forms of organized crime, and the instrumentalization of migration by certain segments of the political class has impeded the effective roll-out of support services. In regard to support for people who use drugs, naloxone has been distributed to people who use drugs since the 1990s, and Italy’s overdose-prevention strategy, which also includes opioid-substitution therapy, is modelled on a harm-reduction framework. Organized-crime-prevention strategies in Italy are heavily focused on the seizure and confiscation of assets destined to be used by criminal organizations in order to prevent them from committing other organized-crime-related crimes and to deprive them of the resources that enable them to conduct their illicit activities.

    Civil society and other non-state actors play a crucial role in the fight against organized crime in Italy, beyond what the judicial, legislative and investigative forces are able to achieve. The government is very open to fostering and promoting a strong and independent civil society, and state funds have been allocated to boost the work of non-state actors against organized crime. However, press freedom is severely threatened – not by state actors but by criminal actors operating in the country. In recent years, reports of intimidation and attacks against journalists covering organized crime have been on the rise, with almost two dozen journalists in Italy under permanent police protection.

    For a better experience, please rotate your device.

    The criminal markets score is represented by the pyramid base size and the criminal actors score is represented by the pyramid height, on a scale ranging from 1 to 10. The resilience score is represented by the panel height, which can be identified by the side of the panel.

    This report was funded in part by a grant from the United States Department of State.

    ENACT is funded by the European Union and implemented by the Institute for Security Studies and INTERPOL, in affiliation with the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.

    The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.