Italian eco-crime seen increasing in 1999

Latest Legambiente annual survey values country's "Ecomafia" at euros 13.4bn

Italian environmental crime levels are growing, environmental group Legambiente said last week in its latest annual report on the "Ecomafia". Demonstrating the unique place that the NGO's survey has in Italian politics, the country's president Carlo Ciampi sent a message supporting its initiative and calling for "adequate and effective" policies to "combat the illegality perpetrated by ever-more insidious organised crime".

According to Legambiente, organised environmental crime increased in value by euros 2bn (ITL4,000bn) from 1998 levels to euros 13.4bn in 1999. It estimates that the business is now controlled by 138 clans, up from 110 at the end of 1998. The number of individuals reported for environmental crimes soared in 1999 to 17,447, from 9,392 in 1998. In 1999, police recorded a total of 26,508 environmental crimes.

Organised crime strengthened its control of waste and animal trafficking and illegal dumping of such materials as cement and old cables, while retaining its hold over more traditional preserves such as drug and arms trafficking, usury and extortion, Legambiente's report says.

Over 42% of environmental crime in 1999 took place in the four regions where the Mafia is traditionally strong: Campania, Puglia, Calabria and Sicily. Campania showed itself to be the most lawless, with over 18% of all environmental crimes recorded by police occurring there, according to Legambiente.

Illegal building activity was the one area that witnessed an improvement in 1999: this fell by 13% in the second half of the year. "Thanks to the demolitions carried out, which we strongly supported, Italy was spared one new illegal building in four," said the group.

Speaking at Legambiente's press conference, Italy's interior minister Enzo Bianco said he was contemplating coordinating the activities of Italy's various law and order forces with those of the anti-Mafia directorate on a permanent basis. "We must not lower our guard," added environment minister Edo Ronchi.

Follow Up:
Legambiente, tel: +39 06 862 681.

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