Italy‘s Interior Minister said gangsters could “condition” the Italian voters and warned there is a “concrete risk” of critical interference.
Marco Minniti said different mafia groups across the country could disrupt the crunch election on March 4, the effects of which will be felt in Brussels as well as Rome.
He said: “We’re in the swing of the electoral competition and saying this should not be out of order, it is a fact: there is a concrete risk of the mafias conditioning electors’ free vote.
“The mafias are able to condition institutions and politics.”
Mr Minniti said there was “too much silence” on the issue and urged local authorities to do more to combat the influence of mafia across the country.
He concluded: “On these issues there cannot be a silence in the electoral campaign, I see too much silence on these issues. I say this as minister of the interior.”
Italian news agency ANSA said there were three main Mafia groups which had actively disrupted free elections in recent years.
They said: “The three main mafias are the Calabria-based ‘Ndrangheta, the Sicily-based Cosa Nostra and the Campania-based Camorra.
“They have all featured in vote-buying cases over the years.”
The political influence of mafia groups – and the respect they garner among the public – has plummeted in recent decades. However the groups are still active in incredibly lucrative black market operations.
CNBC reports the mafia oversaw a shadowy £183billion industry in 2015 – an amount which equalled 12 per cent of Italy’s total GDP.
Officials in Rome and Brussels are both preparing nervously for polling day in Italy, with the result set to have crucial ramifications for the bloc as a whole.
Recent polls indicate the anti-EU Five Star Movement (5SM) is the most popular party in the country – although they are expected to be defeated by a coalition of moderate parties.
If victorious, Lega Nord leader Matteo Salvini said he would immediately hold a referendum on Italy’s eurozone membership.