Addiopizzo is confronting the problem of mafia extortion in Italy using legal means, education and public awareness campaigns and “Critical Consumption”.
Focus: Crime Prevention
Geographic Area of Impact: Italy
Model: Hybrid Not-for-Profit
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 797 entrepreneurs and shopkeepers; 10,241 consumers supporting them (2012)
Annual Budget: US$ 300,000 (2012)
Percent Earned Revenue: 50% (Associazione Onlus Comitato Addiopizzo and Associazione Culturale Addiopizzo Community)
Recognition: Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2013
In Sicily, Italy, the racket of criminal mafia extortions is called pizzo. The pizzo is a complex phenomenon whose policy has long been “extort little, but extort all.” The criminal organization who impose the pizzo were careful not to be too intrusive so that over time, the pizzo began to be seen as socially acceptable and tolerable. Nonetheless, the pizzo has an extremely pernicious economic impact. It is difficult to quantify the economic damage of the pizzo because extortion amounts are kept secret. But in recent years criminals’ account books have been found and it is estimated that retail businesses pay the pizzo an average of 457,00 Euros per month, restaurants pay an average of 578,00 Euros a month, and construction companies are forced to increase their prices by about 6 per cent.
Innovation and Activities
In 2004 the founders of Addiopizzo tried to open a business and faced the problem of potential extortion threats on behalf of the mafia. Out of frustration over the pizzo’s control over the local economy, the group covered the streets of the city with stickers saying “an entire people that pays the pizzo is a people without dignity.” The response to this informal campaign was significant and sparked the creation of Addiopizzo, a citizen organization that works to fight the pizzo by supporting local businesses that refuse to pay extortion money.
Addiopizzo has pursued several strategies to fight the pizzo. Firstly, to raise awareness and change the public perception of the pizzo, Addiopizzo launched a campaign around “Critical Consumption,” where consumers (10’236 in 2012) commit to shopping at stores whose owners have filed official complaints against the pizzo. More than three thousand citizens signed a petition offering their support in 2006. The Addiopizzo conscious consuming campaign has raised public awareness and shifted media attention back on the problem of the mafia.
Secondly, Addiopizzo pursues changes from a legal point of view and combats the pizzo by participating in criminal trials against extortionists. Before Addiopizzo, no organization had ever taken part in criminal trials and sought compensation on behalf of shopkeepers or entrepreneurs damaged by the criminal activities of mafia. Judges ruled in favour of Addiopizzo saying that the shopkeepers had the right to receive compensation and ordered members of the mafia to pay the damages.
Since 2007 Addiopizzo has participated as civil defenders and claimants in eighty-six criminal trials in which it has assisted 38 people and 12 businesses. In addition it has supported hundreds of small and large businesses – having grown its list of businesses committed to not paying the pizzo from 110 to 797. Addiopizzo has successfully created a social network formed by businesses, hundreds of schools, thousands of citizens and dozens of associations.
The association Addiopizzo Community, a social enterprise incubator, manages tourist services to its members, to travel agencies and tour operators by matching tourists with activities, producers (e.g. wine tasting) and events that have the Addiopizzo extortion-free Certification.
Salvatore Forello is the co-founder and president of Associazione Onlus Comitato Addiopizzo and member of its managing board. From June 2004, the association has been dedicated to a campaign of awareness in the fight against the mafia extortion of local business. Mr. Forello earned a degree in law from the University in Palermo. He is the recipient of the “Giovanni Falcone e Paolo Borsellino Scholarship” for his dissertation on the relationship between businesses and the mafia.
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