Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni has congratulated ministers involved in fighting the Mafia, adding that in two years, over 15,000 assets worth billions have been seized.
“Our objective is to hand them over to local entities and for that reason, we have created a national agency for the Mafia’s seized assets,” he said.
The minister was speaking at the inauguration of a crèche in a former Mafia-owned villa in Varese, northern Italy.
He added that in two years, authorities have seized assets worth over 16bn euros ($21bn).
Maroni said that by placing a monetary value on the items and making them available to the public, the government could show that they are “present” in the fight against the Mafia, and “will go right to the end”.
Last week, authorities said they had seized solar and wind power companies, land, villas, cars and bank accounts worth 1.5bn euros ($1.9bn) belonging to a Sicilian businessman with suspected Mafia ties.
Confiscated assets are handed over to local authorities or co-operatives and transformed, like a Sicilian Mafia boss’ former hideout that was converted into a rural cottage.
Italian law permits the police to put into escrow properties belonging to the Mafia or associated businessmen, based on suspicion and without a court order. Since 1996, these properties can be reused for social purposes.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government have stepped up their assault on Mafia assets, weakening the organisation’s sources of funding.
According to the chief of the anti-Mafia brigade, Rosolino Nasca, property wealth is the Achilles heel of Italy’s organised crime bosses.
But he said their power “remains in their capacity to transfer their salaries to their accomplices and to their families if they are arrested and to then finance their legal defence”.
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