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Seeking the devil in details


Suspicious patterns are revealed by crunching financial data

...Crime&tech’s software identifies not pizzo (protection payments) schemes as such, but firms that may be under mafioso control or involved in Mafia crimes such as illegal gambling and trafficking in people, drugs or arms. Its algorithms look at many variables. Businesses with little or no bank financing are more likely to have taken out a Mafia loan. Borrowers who struggle to repay may “convert the debt into stock” held by the Mafia creditor, often behind the smokescreen of a figurehead administrator, says Michele Riccardi of Crime&tech. The software considers the age and sex of a firm’s administrators. Those who are old, young or female are more likely to be figureheads.

It also looks for anomalies in payroll and invoice data that may reveal attempts to conceal illicit payments, especially in sectors where Mafia activity is strongest: construction, retail, waste removal, food services and transport. A high share of a firm’s wealth kept liquid is a red flag.

...In an effort to curb Mafia involvement in public contracts, Italy’s finance ministry is using the software to keep an eye on more than 10,000 bank accounts. Computer says no, mafioso.

Tags: economics

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