Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Mafia’s role in food exposed

Italy’s crime prosecutors and its farm organization, Coldiretti, say the Mafia is increasing its grip on the nation’s food industry.

The criminals are behind fraudulent labeling of olive oil as virgin, citrus exports to North America and Italian wholesale produce markets and local supermarket chains.

The prosecutors and Coldioretti want new laws to help curb the Mafia.

A report estimated the overall volume of business in what has been called the "agri-Mafia" interests jumped by 30 percent in 2016, compared to 2015.

The report, which was presented at Coldiretti's Rome headquarters to anti-Mafia investigators, law enforcement ministers, lawmakers and police officials, calculated the amount of business at 21.8 billion euros ($23 billion US), stressing the estimate was likely low.

"The most notorious clans of organized crime have divvied up the food business, putting their hands on the products that are symbols of 'made in Italy,'" Coldiretti said.

National anti-Mafia Prosecutor Franco Roberti cited the crackdown earlier this year on what he called "a colossal fraud" in olive oil exports, perpetrated by the 'ndrangheta, the southern-Italy based crime organization that is considered one of the world's most powerful syndicates.

Last year the Canadian Food Inspection Agency identified fraudulent labeling of virgin olive oil.

Investigators alleged the Piromalli crime clan in Reggio Calabria was really packaging the residue of olive oil production purchased from the Middle East.

There have been previous reports of Mafia infiltration of the North American food industry, including the A&P supermarket chain in the New York area in the 1960s, the mozzarella cheese business in Montreal and the meat-packing industry in Montreal, Toronto and Burlington.

There have been no successful prosecutions of the Mafia in Canada, partly because the courts have not found proof that the Mafia exists here.