WikiLeaks cable: Italian mob remains "serious and pervasive" problem

Bullets and gun with wikileaks logo, hand holding euro's over Italian flag.
Bullets and gun with wikileaks logo, hand holding euro's over Italian flag. CBS/AP

By Chris Zawistowski , CBS News Investigates Intern

Organized crime still abounds in Italy and may be indirectly supporting terrorist groups in Columbia and Central Asia, according to a cable released by WikiLeaks yesterday.

The cable, sent by the Charge d'affaires in Rome in anticipation of then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's trip to Italy in 2009, stated that organized crime remains a "serious and pervasive" problem throughout the country, particularly in the Southern region, engaging in activities including the production and distribution of counterfeit products, extortion and the trafficking of drugs, arms and people.

"There are large swaths of territory in southern Italy where the state is nearly completely absent and the crime syndicates control most facets of society and the economy," the cable said. "These groups create a huge drag on Italy's economic growth and its ability to apply the rule of law."

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There are some indications, according to the cable, this drug and arms trade has "at least indirectly benefited terrorist groups in Columbia and Central Asia."

According to the cable, Italian President Silvio Berlusconi and the country's law enforcement have made some progress in curbing the activities of the mafia in Sicily. However, this success has not been replicated in the rest of the country.

In the cable it's estimated that organized crime may account for up to nine percent of Italy's gross domestic product.

"The Berlusconi government has taken a hard line on crime, sending soldiers and more police to patrol cities," according to the cable. "Nonetheless, Mafia businesses have not been interrupted."