ITALIAN OFFICIALS CLARIFY STATEMENTS ON MAFIA/FASHION REPORTED IN PRESS

Byline: Sara Gay Forden

MILAN — Government officials on Tuesday played down press reports here that had them pointing to the Italian fashion industry as a target of the Mafia.
The stories broke at the weekend, just after the spring-summer collections here ended and — coincidentally — after Italy’s Anti-Mafia Commission wound up a quiet meeting here with officials of the Lombardy region. While a final press conference on the governmental meeting ignited no startling news, stories afterward had Roberto Formigoni, president of the Lombardy region, stating he had warned Ottaviano Del Turco, president of the Anti-Mafia Commission, that the Mafia could well be eyeing the fashion sector, one of Italy’s most profitable and dynamic industries.
In La Repubblica, a headline stated, “Mafia Risk for the Fashion Sector,” while Il Giornale shouted, “Mafia Targets Fashion.”
In a statement issued Tuesday to WWD, Formigoni hastened to explain his warning, which he said was aimed at protecting the industry, rather than attacking it, and pointed out he had no evidence that the Mafia had actually infiltrated the fashion business or had concrete plans to do so.
Rather, he said, through a spokesman, “The authorities have a responsibility to protect an industry as extraordinary as the fashion industry, a sector that employs tens of thousands of people, that exports, that creates a national trade surplus amounting to trillions of lire and that uplifts the image of Italy around the world.”
Formigoni also said he had identified the financial services and real estate sectors as other industries at risk.
Further explaining reasons for concern, however, Formigoni’s spokesman added, “We have access to information that affects the fashion sector as a whole in the Lombardy Region that perhaps the single municipalities don’t have. We can see how quickly boutiques open and close, how much capital goes into them. We can monitor these things.”
For his part, Del Turco, in a telephone interview, also cited a lack of evidence linking the Mafia to the fashion business and denied a statement in La Repubblica that he would open an investigation into the matter.
“Italian fashion gives probably the best image of Italy in the world; the Mafia is Italy’s worst image. I don’t think there is any way there is a relationship between the two,” Del Turco said.”We are keeping our eyes open, but we aren’t opening an investigation.”

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