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Mafia extending its reach, Italians say

ROME, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Italy's Mafia has spread its influence into the country's wealthy northern cities and gained control of sectors of the legal economy there, a report says.

Expanding from traditional undertakings of drug trafficking, loan sharking and extortion, the Mafia has moved into construction, public works projects and finance, the National Council of the Economy and Labor said in a report released Tuesday.

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Italy's main crime organizations, including Sicily's Cosa Nostra, Neopolitan Camora and Calabria's Ndrangheta, have moved into various sectors of the north's economy, the report said.

In one example, the report says, "Ndrangheta has 'silently' taken control of established legal businesses and enterprises which in turn have become 'Trojan Horses' for further criminal expansion."

By June 2009 courts in the north had seized organized crime assets worth $192 million and businesses worth $2.3 million, the report said. Across the country, the government seized 7 billion euros, almost $10 billion, from the Mafia in 2009.

But such seizures are small compared with what the crime syndicates take in, the chairman of the country's Anti-Mafia Commission said.

"Taking seven billion euros away from organized crime is a good thing," Giuseppe Pisanu said, "but you have to compare that to the 120 to 140 billion euros organized crime grosses every year."

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