Mafia hands out free food to Italy’s coronavirus-hit residents in ‘attempt to impose control over people’s lives’ – The Sun

MAFIA gangsters are handing out food to Italians who have run out of cash during the coronavirus lockdown, authorities have warned.

Mobsters hope to win good support among poor residents before moving to "impose total control over their lives".

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Videos have surfaced in recent days of known Mafia gangs delivering essential goods across the poorest southern regions of Campania, Calabria, Sicily and Puglia.

They are seeking to take advantage of rising tensions across the country, reports The Guardian.

Antimafia investigator Nicola Gratteri said: “Millions of people work in the grey economy, which means that they haven’t received any income in more than a month and have no idea when they might return to work.

"If the state doesn’t step in soon to help these families, the mafia will provide its services, imposing their control over people’s lives.”

Some of the worst-hit are the estimated 3.3million Italians who work off the books, leaving them vulnerable when their work dries up suddenly.

Interior minister Luciana Lamorgese warned: "The mafia could take advantage of the rising poverty, swooping in to recruit people to its organisation."

The government is issuing shopping vouchers to support people who are struggling since the whole country fell to a standstill on March 9.

But the lockdown is set to extended until at least May and there are warnings of social unrest.

Some supermarkets are said to be suffering as people run out without paying, and others have tried to pressure shop owners to give them free products.

Naples police have intensified patrols in the poorest districts, where men tied to the Camorra mob organised home delivery of food parcels.

In Palermo in Sicily, the brother of a Cosa Nostra boss reportedly distributed food to the poor in the Zen neighbourhood – then defended himself on Facebook claiming it was charity.

Experts warn the mobsters will expect favours in return – such as helping the criminals or simply voting for their puppet politicians.

Federico Varese, professor of criminology at the University of Oxford, told the Guardian: “These handouts by the mafias are not gifts. The mafia does not do anything out of its kind heart.

"They are favours that everyone will have to pay back in some form or another, by aiding and abetting a fugitive, holding a gun, dealing drugs and the like.”

Gratteri, the prosecutor, added: "In the people’s eyes, a boss who knocks on the door offering free food is a hero.

"And the boss knows that he can then count on the support of these families when necessary, when, for example, the mafia sponsors a politician for election who will further their criminal interests.”

Last month we told how a wanted Mafia godfather was arrested after breaching the lockdown to go outside for a smoke.

Yesterday we told how Italy is preparing to extend its nationwide lockdown into May to prevent a second wave of deadly coronavirus infections.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is expected to extend most of the country's stringent quarantine measures until at least May 3.

It had earlier been reported Italy could see shops reopening across the country next week, despite health experts warning it would be a “dangerous thing to do.”

The Italian government was reportedly looking at plans for shops to resume trading and people to return to work after being in lockdown for a month because of coronavirus.

Italy's death toll since the outbreak began is the highest in the world at more than 18,279.

The number of confirmed infections climbed to 143,626, the third highest global tally behind the US and Spain.

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