For over 50 years, the Italian government has been constructing a highway, called the A3, from Naples to Reggio Calabria , a region marred by 40 per cent youth unemployment and 20 per cent overall. The project still isn’t finished. The highway was the subject of a recent piece in Monday’s edition of The New York Times.Since the road first opened, “three generations of subcontractors — appointed by three generations of politicians — have made their livings from it.”
What’s drawing new attention to this corruption is that they’re living off European Union funds.
From 2000-2011, Italy received more than $60 billion in EU funds to finance programs in, among other things, infrastructure. The Times notes that since 2001, $10 billion has been spent on the A3. And since 2000, prosecutors have arrested hundreds of people “involved with the highway,” mostly on charges of corruption and extortion.
Two days after the Times piece was published, the entire government of Reggio Calabria was dissolved due to Mafia connections.
Which gets right to the heart of the problem. In fact Calabria was the birthplace 50 years ago of one of the world’s largest, most secretive, yet loosely organised crime syndicates : the ‘Ndrangheta (pronounced en-drang-ay-ta).
The ‘Ndrangheta is growing, while its more famous cousin, La Cosa Nostra, fades. Guardian’s John Hooper wrote in 2006:
The evidence suggests that, while the Sicilian Mafia [La Cosa Nostra], like the U.S. Mafia, has been fading to a shadow of its former self, the little-known ‘Ndrangheta has been taking over as Italy’s true public enemy number one and has become a criminal empire with global clout.
The U.S. government noted the severity of the problem as well. In a cable released by Wikileaks, a U.S. official not only described organised crime as a “deep-rooted phenomena” in Southern Italy that affects all aspects of life, but singled out ‘Ndrangheta as “the most dangerous of all.” Another cable declared that Calabria would be a ‘”failed state’ were it not part of Italy because of the pervasive grip of the ‘Ndrangheta,” according to the AP.
The syndicate is still active in its birthplace: “Where there are big public works, the ‘Ndrangheta has a big interest,” Roberto di Palma, a magistrate in the Italian courts who conducted two corruption relating to highway construction, told the Times. “The ‘Ndrangheta is a parasite.”
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