Italy’s usurers 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 coronavirus. “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 nothing comes from the bank, you quickly become gullible and trust the first person 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.