Blog post

Roberto Saviano on organized crime and the financial crisis

Molly Osberg29 August 2012

Roberto Saviano, author of the forthcoming essay collection Beauty and the Inferno, writes this week for the New York Times about organized crime's massive advantage during the global financial crisis. He writes:

American banks have profited from money laundering by Latin American drug cartels, while the European debt crisis has strengthened the grip of the loan sharks and speculators who control the vast underground economies in countries like Spain and Greece.

Saviano knows a bit about organized crime: in 2006, his best-selling expose Gomorrah so angered the Italian mob the author received death threats and entered police custody. His reporting from that time, he writes, found that in the years following 9/11, crackdowns on American terrorist financing simply inspired money-laundering operations to move abroad. The European debt crisis has only further "emboldened" these endeavors. Most striking, perhaps, is the close relationship between organized crime and large financial institutions:

In 2010, Wachovia admitted that it had essentially helped finance the murderous drug war in Mexico by failing to identify and stop illicit transactions. The bank, which was acquired by Wells Fargo during the financial crisis, agreed to pay $160 million in fines and penalties for tolerating the laundering, which occurred between 2004 and 2007.

Visit the New York Times to read the interview in full.