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The 2 billion euros of “superbonus” tax credits in the hands of the mafia and the need for an effective judicial system

2 billion euros in false tax credits relating to “superbonuses” of 110% (designed to support home renovations in Italy) are in the hands of mafia gangs. The fraud perpetrated against the Italian state has been carried out with the complicity of professionals who appeared to be “above suspicion”. The funds have been diverted to the criminal families of the ‘Ndrangheta, the Camorra and the Sicilian Stidda (formerly in opposition to Cosa Nostra). The estimate was made in recent days by Italy’s DIA, the Anti-Mafia Investigation Division (Il Sole 24 Ore, 18 May) and is believed to be an approximate figure. The billions would allow mafia organisations to finance drug trafficking and other illicit activities.

The transactions relating to the “superbonus” are just the latest news to emerge on the criminal economy. This thriving economy is prospering in a climate marked by an apparent lack of attention on mafia crimes. Leonardo Sciascia, perhaps the intellectual most sensitive to the dangers of the mafia’s subversive infiltration said that “I fear the mafia when it doesn’t shoot”, because it means that it can calmly and silently go about its business, devastating politics, the economy and public authorities. Indeed, recent news reports reveal the proliferation of mafia activities in the heart of the major Italian cities, through organisations’ control of famous bars and restaurants, convenient screens for laundering money and taking charge of local areas. And suspicions of mafia involvement also loom behind large public contracts in Genoa, Sicily, Puglia and Lombardy.

This is nothing new, when you think about it. Mafia bosses have always looked to the most profitable businesses. And criminal operations are now so widespread in Italy that they render the term “infiltration” obsolete – instead the current reality reflects the genuine well-structured presence of gang leaders.

Il Sole 24 Ore is therefore right to give great prominence on its front page to the news about the 2 billion euros of fake tax credits. In doing so, the country’s main financial newspaper is using its authority to signal the deep alarm of companies at a criminal drift wreaking profound damage on the competitiveness of healthy companies, on markets and on the proper functioning of the public administration.

Legality is at the core of businesses and the mafia is a radical enemy of development – this has long been a theme close to the hearts of the leaders of Confindustria, Assolombarda and other regional and sector-specific trade organisations. Competition is distorted, the quality of products and services deteriorates, and job security is compromised. Widespread tax evasion and contract breaches also mean that regular businesses are put in serious difficulty, with damage to the environment (through illegal waste disposal), health, quality of life and civil society. Construction, procurement, healthcare, commercial and financial services are the sectors most affected by mafia infiltration. Over time, the entire economic system becomes radically compromised.

These considerations, which the mafia “superbonus” fraud has returned to the spotlight, have led to growing corporate sensitivity on issues concerning the quality of the judicial system (this was echoed at the roundtable organised in mid-May, in Milan, by the law firm Bonelli Erede and Aidaf, the association of family businesses, on the topic of “Businesses and justice: challenges for businesses and investor appeal”).

We therefore need greater commitment to combat financial crime – and this starts with the fight against the mafia. And we need to pay greater attention to responsibly reforming the judicial system so that it is more efficient, effective and timely – including by spending wisely the resources made available by the NRRP.

“An efficient judicial system encourages innovation, promotes investment and the appeal of doing business, improves the quality of credit and reduces its cost, as well as renewing the faith of citizens in how a democratic state functions”, argues a study by Assonime in April 2024, citing data that show an improvement in the situation but also reveal persistent serious inefficiencies, shortcomings and delays.

Businesses insist on the need for “legal certainty”. This means timeframes for the resolution of civil disputes (there is a growing inclination for alternative tools, such as arbitration and mediation, in part thanks to the positive example of the Arbitration Panel of Milan’s Chamber of Commerce) and the timely completion of criminal investigations. It means balanced and effective sanctions through clear and well-founded rulings. But it also means – and this is a key point – the clarity of laws (with a critical reference to legislation that is often of questionable quality), the convergence between national standards and European and international legislation, and the long-term stability of the rules themselves (the continuous changes to tax and tax provisions, for example, place companies in serious difficulty and prevent them from carrying out long-term tax planning with any certainty).

The cracks between confusing and contradictory legislation with unwieldy rules that are awkwardly applied provide the perfect habitat for mafia clans. And those clans exploit every opportunity to distort the rules and circumvent sanctions, increasing their wealth and power. This alarm bell sounded on “superbonus” tax credits in the hands of the mafia and concerns about contracts and subcontracts deserves to be heard – and paid attention to. And clear anti-mafia, judicial and political choices need to be made. This needs to be done in the name of justice, this much is obvious. But it also needs to be done in the name of decent sustainable economic development, civic society and – why not? – the hope for a better kind of politics.

(photo Getty Images)

2 billion euros in false tax credits relating to “superbonuses” of 110% (designed to support home renovations in Italy) are in the hands of mafia gangs. The fraud perpetrated against the Italian state has been carried out with the complicity of professionals who appeared to be “above suspicion”. The funds have been diverted to the criminal families of the ‘Ndrangheta, the Camorra and the Sicilian Stidda (formerly in opposition to Cosa Nostra). The estimate was made in recent days by Italy’s DIA, the Anti-Mafia Investigation Division (Il Sole 24 Ore, 18 May) and is believed to be an approximate figure. The billions would allow mafia organisations to finance drug trafficking and other illicit activities.

The transactions relating to the “superbonus” are just the latest news to emerge on the criminal economy. This thriving economy is prospering in a climate marked by an apparent lack of attention on mafia crimes. Leonardo Sciascia, perhaps the intellectual most sensitive to the dangers of the mafia’s subversive infiltration said that “I fear the mafia when it doesn’t shoot”, because it means that it can calmly and silently go about its business, devastating politics, the economy and public authorities. Indeed, recent news reports reveal the proliferation of mafia activities in the heart of the major Italian cities, through organisations’ control of famous bars and restaurants, convenient screens for laundering money and taking charge of local areas. And suspicions of mafia involvement also loom behind large public contracts in Genoa, Sicily, Puglia and Lombardy.

This is nothing new, when you think about it. Mafia bosses have always looked to the most profitable businesses. And criminal operations are now so widespread in Italy that they render the term “infiltration” obsolete – instead the current reality reflects the genuine well-structured presence of gang leaders.

Il Sole 24 Ore is therefore right to give great prominence on its front page to the news about the 2 billion euros of fake tax credits. In doing so, the country’s main financial newspaper is using its authority to signal the deep alarm of companies at a criminal drift wreaking profound damage on the competitiveness of healthy companies, on markets and on the proper functioning of the public administration.

Legality is at the core of businesses and the mafia is a radical enemy of development – this has long been a theme close to the hearts of the leaders of Confindustria, Assolombarda and other regional and sector-specific trade organisations. Competition is distorted, the quality of products and services deteriorates, and job security is compromised. Widespread tax evasion and contract breaches also mean that regular businesses are put in serious difficulty, with damage to the environment (through illegal waste disposal), health, quality of life and civil society. Construction, procurement, healthcare, commercial and financial services are the sectors most affected by mafia infiltration. Over time, the entire economic system becomes radically compromised.

These considerations, which the mafia “superbonus” fraud has returned to the spotlight, have led to growing corporate sensitivity on issues concerning the quality of the judicial system (this was echoed at the roundtable organised in mid-May, in Milan, by the law firm Bonelli Erede and Aidaf, the association of family businesses, on the topic of “Businesses and justice: challenges for businesses and investor appeal”).

We therefore need greater commitment to combat financial crime – and this starts with the fight against the mafia. And we need to pay greater attention to responsibly reforming the judicial system so that it is more efficient, effective and timely – including by spending wisely the resources made available by the NRRP.

“An efficient judicial system encourages innovation, promotes investment and the appeal of doing business, improves the quality of credit and reduces its cost, as well as renewing the faith of citizens in how a democratic state functions”, argues a study by Assonime in April 2024, citing data that show an improvement in the situation but also reveal persistent serious inefficiencies, shortcomings and delays.

Businesses insist on the need for “legal certainty”. This means timeframes for the resolution of civil disputes (there is a growing inclination for alternative tools, such as arbitration and mediation, in part thanks to the positive example of the Arbitration Panel of Milan’s Chamber of Commerce) and the timely completion of criminal investigations. It means balanced and effective sanctions through clear and well-founded rulings. But it also means – and this is a key point – the clarity of laws (with a critical reference to legislation that is often of questionable quality), the convergence between national standards and European and international legislation, and the long-term stability of the rules themselves (the continuous changes to tax and tax provisions, for example, place companies in serious difficulty and prevent them from carrying out long-term tax planning with any certainty).

The cracks between confusing and contradictory legislation with unwieldy rules that are awkwardly applied provide the perfect habitat for mafia clans. And those clans exploit every opportunity to distort the rules and circumvent sanctions, increasing their wealth and power. This alarm bell sounded on “superbonus” tax credits in the hands of the mafia and concerns about contracts and subcontracts deserves to be heard – and paid attention to. And clear anti-mafia, judicial and political choices need to be made. This needs to be done in the name of justice, this much is obvious. But it also needs to be done in the name of decent sustainable economic development, civic society and – why not? – the hope for a better kind of politics.

(photo Getty Images)