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Framing the issue

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Extortion in Italy

Corruption is, by European standards, a fundamental and widespread problem in Italy. It is estimated that corruption costs the Italian economy almost US$80bn a year, approximately the size of Italy's budget deficit. Corruption is closely linked to organised crime, which has spread beyond its southern roots, posing a nationwide risk to business. The three main organised crime groups in Italy are historically based in the south of the country: the Sicilian Mafia, or Cosa Nostra; the Camorra based in Naples; and the ‘Ndrangheta based in Calabria, in the far south-west of the country.

Accordingly, levels of corruption tend to be higher in Southern Italy. This is reinforced by official crime statistics, which show levels of extortion to be elevated in the south of the country. The highest incidence of extortion in 2010 were reported in Campania (17.5 cases per 100,000 people), Calabria (15.5), Apulia (13.8) and Sicily (12.9). Aggravating factors in the prevalence of corruption in southern Italy are a lack of economic development, low levels of employment, and subsequent attempts to boost the region through redistribution of central government grants or funds from the European Union. Lack of transparency in the allocation of this aid has contributed greatly to widespread corruption in the south.

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