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U.S. Says Italy Must Do More to Fight Mafia, WikiLeaks Shows

Sicilian Mafia boss Bernardo Provenzano
A file photo showing Sicilian Mafia boss Bernardo Provenzano in custody in Palermo on April 11, 2006. Photographer: Franco Lannino/Bloomberg News

Italy’s politicians and Catholic Church are not doing enough to fight the Sicilian Mafia and the country’s other crime groups, according to a classified U.S. diplomatic cable posted by the website WikiLeaks.

“Politicians are not too focused on these issues,” the U.S. general counsel in Naples, J. Patrick Truhn, said in a cable sent on June 6, 2008, according to the leaked document. “At the national level it is generally referred to, if at all, as a ‘southern’ issue, although it affects the entire country.”

Truhn said “organized crime was barely mentioned” in that year’s election campaign, won by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. “The Italian Catholic Church has often come under fire for not taking a stronger public stance against organized crime,” he also said, according to the cable.

The Italian economy, Europe’s fourth biggest, shrank 5.1 percent in 2009 as the country experienced its deepest slump since World War II. Organized-crime groups boosted their revenue by 4 percent to 135 billion euros ($174.6 billion) in the same year, according to estimates from Rome-based anti-racketeering group SOS Impresa.

“Although law enforcement, business associations, citizens’ groups” are “demonstrating promising engagement in fighting organized crime, the same cannot be said of Italy’s politicians, particularly at the national level,” Truhn said.

The U.S. has a “significant stake in the fight against organized crime in Italy,” he said, adding that Italian crime syndicates “support terrorist groups in Colombia and Central Asia through drug trafficking” and violate intellectual-property rights of U.S. businesses and artists.

Italy’s mafia is a criminal threat in the United States, particularly in the Northeast, Deputy Attorney General Mark Filip told reporters at the U.S. Embassy in Rome in May 2008.

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