Consequences of the Corona Crisis: Italy's usurers celebrate in viral times

              Many Italian entrepreneurs run out of money during these times of crisis, and the banks provide scant credit. It is now the hour of usury. Once in their clutches, it is difficult to get out.
              The Corona crisis has deprived many shopkeepers, small and medium-sized businesses of Italy of their last financial resources. Reports of entrepreneurs falling victim to usurers are piling up in the media. The emergency comes as no surprise given the two-month lockdown. The government had therefore already passed the "Liquidità" decree in early April, which also provided loans of up to EUR 25,000 for these companies. The loans are 100 percent covered by the state. The intention was laudable, the implementation less so. By May 13, only 6.2 percent of the 165,000 applicants had benefited from it, according to a study by the Stiftung Arbeitsberater. The problem is, the banks don't trust politicians. Although the decree does not provide for an assessment of the facts, the institutes fear that one day the state could object to the granting of credit in the case of defaulting entrepreneurs because the customer was financially shaky even before the corona virus. "And a delay in payment that has since been settled would also suffice," explains Paolo Bocedi, founder of the anti-usury association "Sos Italia Libera", "But the entrepreneurs urgently need the money so that the company survives – and if from the bank nothing comes, then you quickly become gullible and entrust yourself to the first one who promises help ". Bocedi knows what he's talking about. He and his company had caught the usury in Saronno, a small town in the Milan province, in the 1990s. That is why he founded the association 25 years ago. "And everyone who volunteers in Sos Italia Libera has had the same experience," he adds, "I was in a tight spot." Stefano Maiolis' suffering began nine years ago, in the middle of the economic crisis. The 51-year-old entrepreneur from the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna had set up his own business in 1994 and founded his construction company for thermal insulation and energy renovation in Castelnovo Monti. Business has been going well for years. From April to November he was able to hire up to 30 seasonal workers. The first major setback came in 2011: "Three large customers were no longer able to pay the outstanding invoices," says Maioli A nightmare, his company account was overdrawn by 200,000 euros, workers and suppliers had to be paid, and he went to his banks. But despite an annual turnover of one million euros at that time, they only granted him a loan after a long back and forth. And only at an exorbitant rate, as he later found. Instead of the usual 13 percent, he was charged 30 percent, he said, and decided to report the credit institutions. "Unicredit, Banca Popolare dell'Emilia Romagna and BNL, write the names, I stand by it." The proceedings are still ongoing, but he was blacklisted for the banks and now no longer receives any credit. "Which is absurd, because the value of my real estate is two million euros and as a sole trader I am liable with all my assets." "So I was in a tight spot and talked about it with friends and acquaintances. And at some point someone told me that he knew someone who could help, "Maioli continues. Once contact is made, everything goes very quickly. "You get the 3,000 euros you urgently need, make a check for 3,600 euros, which has to be paid at the end of the month. If not, a new check will be issued. Of course, interest doubles each time." Nevertheless, he had managed to keep his company alive and to pay his debts to the last cent. The last payment was made recently, probably the money went to the Neapolitan Camorra. "You never get to see the actual financier, you only meet with the middleman somewhere at a late hour. The contact is via Whatsapp. I still saved all the messages." Now, with the support of Sos Italia Libera, he has filed a complaint against the usurer, also because he finally wants to do business again under normal conditions. The bank's credit reimbursement has to change When the "Liquidità" decree came into force, Maioli found hope. "I'm not a failure, my company still generates sales of EUR 300,000 a year. And I still have orders, even if everything is standing still at the moment." So he went back to the bank to make the application. There he was told that he only had to cover the minus of EUR 800 in the account, then nothing would stand in the way of a loan. That was when Maioli turned to Sos Italia Libera. So he could deposit the amount. Shortly afterwards he was ordered to the bank and was given the succinct information: "No chance, you won't get a loan from us." Maioli's voice fails when he talks about the day. But he still wants to get rid of one thing: "I'm not afraid of the Camorra. What destroys me is the usury system of the banks. They drove me into their arms. Me like thousands of other Italians. Write that, because only the media can do it help us. "Bocedi is certain that the number of people who will turn to other sources for shortage of money will increase in the coming months. This is now an ideal situation for organized crime. "Mafia, 'Ndrangheta and Camorra are helpful, launder their money and at the same time can pull many companies under the nail." The only bright spot is that the advertisements against usurers are increasing rapidly. According to the Interior Ministry, they rose by more than 10 percent in the first three months of this year alone. "And not just in southern Italy," added Bocedi. "Here in northern Italy, the country's economic engine, the problem is just as present." Those who fight back will also be helped. Those who report usurers receive a ten-year interest-free loan from the National Fund for Usury and Extortion Victims, and can thus build a livelihood again. "It is important that people find the courage to report the usurers, because courage is the worst enemy of the mafia," added Bocedi. However, as long as the banking system does not change, there will always be desperate people looking for help elsewhere.

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