The mafia has been handing out food to those in need in Italy, as experts warn it could end with the gangs taking control over people's lives.
Italy has been of the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak with many people running out of cash due to the lockdown, particularly the millions of people who work 'off the books'.
Speaking to the Guardian, anti-mafia investigator and head of the prosecutor's office in Catanzaro Nicola Gratteri, warned: "Millions of people work in the grey economy, which means that they haven't received any income in more than a month and have no idea when they might return to work.
"The government is issuing so-called shopping vouchers to support people. If the state doesn't step in soon to help these families, the mafia will provide its services, imposing their control over people's lives."
Italian minister of the interior, Luciana Lamorgese has echoed this message, saying that the group could 'take advantage of the rising poverty, swooping in to recruit people to its organisation'.
In recent days mafia members have reportedly been seen in Naples, Sicily, Campania, Puglia and Palermo handing out food parcels for those in need. As a result, police in several regions have upped their patrols.
Experts on the mafia have warned that these seemingly good-natured gestures will not come from the kindness of the organisations hearts and that they will expect something in return, such as helping out criminals or voting for a certain politician when the time comes.
Gratteri added: "In the people's eyes, a boss who knocks on the door offering free food is a hero.
"And the boss knows that he can then count on the support of these families when necessary, when, for example, the mafia sponsors a politician for election who will further their criminal interests."
The death toll in Italy has passed 20,000, with almost 160,000 confirmed cases.
The country is in its fifth week of lockdown, with the strict measures set to stay in place until at least 3 May.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said: "If we gave up now, we would put all the positive results achieved so far at stake and restart with a new rise in the death toll."
Featured Image Credit: PA
Topics: World News, Coronavirus