The Mafia and its loan sharks, nearly everyone agrees, smell blood in the troubled waters.
"It's a fantastic time for the Mafia. They have the cash," said Antonio Roccuzzo, the author of books on organized crime. "The Mafia has enormous liquidity. It may be the only Italian 'company' without any cash problem."
At a time when businesses most need loans as they struggle with falling sales, rising debt and impending bankruptcy, Italian banks have "absolutely closed the purse strings," said Gian Maria Fara, the president of Eurispes, a private research institute.
That is great news for loan sharks. Confesercenti, the national shopkeepers association, estimates 180,000 businesses recently have turned to them in desperation.