Italian mafia milks Swiss Covid funds for expansion 

Italian carabiniere officer holds the bust containing the ashes of the 'baby boss' Emanuele Sibillo, killed in a Camorra ambush, in Naples, Italy. Keystone / Ciro Fusco

The Italian mafia has found ways to expand and steal millions from Switzerland during the coronavirus pandemic, public broadcaster RTS reported on Wednesday. 

This content was published on May 12, 2021 - 12:19

“We can see that the money allocated to companies as Covid loans very quickly goes abroad,” says Nicoletta della Valle, director of the Federal Office of Police (Fedpol). “It is the banks that report these observations to us.” 

To date, Fedpol’s Money Laundering Reporting Office (MROS) estimates that at least CHF180 million ($199 million) has been stolen from government loans issued to offset the financial damage of the coronavirus pandemic. This money is unlikely to return to Switzerland. 

Anti-mafia law enforcers also worry the Italian mafia could massively benefit from funds allocated to Italy under the European Union’s Covid recovery fund (CHF220 billion). In Sicily, the powerful Italian trade organisation Confcommercio claims that La Cosa Nostra is on the verge of taking over the island’s entire economy. 


The mafia phenomenon remains difficult to pin down in Switzerland. But Fedpol talks about multiple forms of crime: arms trafficking, human trafficking, drugs, counterfeit money, receiving stolen goods and money laundering. 

  + More than 400 mafiosi in Switzerland

“We have long underestimated it,” mainly because such crimes are prosecuted at the cantonal level, says della Valle. “We treated these, I would say, as normal crimes, and we didn't see the mafia links. And now, with time, after analysing old criminal prosecution records, we realise this was not a homicide but a murder linked to the mafia.” 

Police analysis has helped reveal the breadth and depth of the mafia’s activities in Switzerland. Cantonal prosecutors have confirmed to RTS that cases of murder, fraud and arms trafficking in Zurich and Italian-speaking Switzerland suggest links to the Calabrian ’Ndrangheta. 

In Geneva, according to reporting carried out by RTS, the mafia has made inroads in the construction, drugs, and money laundering sectors.  

Swiss-German speaking  

“The presence of Italian mafia in Switzerland dates back more than 40 years,” says the head of Fedpol. “Their grandfathers came to Switzerland, to Thurgau, Biel and Bern. And now it’s their grandchildren who are starting to do business, they are all over Switzerland. There are even mafiosi who speak better Swiss German than Italian.” 

University observatory in Ticino 

Some media reports speak of 400 people linked to the mafia in Switzerland. But according to RTS sources, this is only the tip of the iceberg. 

In order to better understand the mafia phenomenon in Switzerland, the University of Italian Switzerland inaugurated an Observatory of Organised Crime on Wednesday. 

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