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Seized mafia assets put to good use - 02/12/2009

Cars and people on street with dilapidated buildings ©EC

EU supports the development of southern Italy by providing funding to convert former mafia property into educational and business centres.

How do you punish someone who is responsible for over 100 murders? And how do you start to break the cycle of poverty and despair brought about by years of mafia violence and intimidation? Besides jailing the notorious mafia boss Giovanni Brusca for life, Italian police also seized his assets.

Lifelong prison sentences may be some consolation for mafia victims, but they will not resolve the underlying problems of high unemployment and poverty that enabled criminals to become so powerful. Organised crime is a major obstacle to economic development in the southern Italian Mezzogiorno, because it hampers productivity and scares away potential investors.

The EU has helped Italian authorities transform 50 seized properties into educational, farm tourism and other businesses – to help create new jobs and give young people an alternative to a life of crime.

The projects send a clear message to local people – it is possible to fight the mafia and build successful businesses on the right side of the law.

In Palermo, the EU has also co-funded work to transform land belonging to Giovanni Brusca into a playground and garden of remembrance for young victims of the mafia. Young victims like Giuseppe Di Matteo, who was held captive for over 2 years, then strangled before his body was dissolved in acid.

In Casalesi (Campania), a youth centre providing educational and recreational activities for young people and the new local police headquarters were built on land seized from Giorgio Marano, a former head of the Camorra crime group.

Every bottle produced at the "Centopassi" winery is dedicated to a victim of the mafia. The land was seized from Giovanni Genovese, who was jailed in 2007 for extortion and other criminal activities.

In total, the EU has earmarked €64m for the conversion of former mafia land and other property under the European regional development fund (ERDF) in 2007-13. Three-quarters of this money will go to a security for development programme in the four southern Italian regions of Calabria, Campania, Ampulia and Sicily.

Italy is the third largest beneficiary of EU funding for regional development after Poland and Spain. Between 2007 and 2013, Italy will receive €28.8 billion of which €21.9 billion comes from the ERDF and €6.9 billion from the European social fund.

More on EU action against organised crime

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