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On the money

Making the mafia pay

Members of the Guardia di Finanza at a military parade in Padua. Roberto Silvino/NurPhoto/Getty

Since the Ukraine war began, Italy has led the way in seizing the villas and superyachts of Russian oligarchs, says Elisabeth Braw in Foreign Policy. This is largely down to the Guardia di Finanza, the country’s financial police force, which is run on military lines. The elite group has a long history. It was set up in 1774 by King Victor Amadeus III of Sardinia, who decided he needed a military unit that could track the money entering and leaving his kingdom.

The Guardia survived Italian unification and fought alongside the army in both world wars. Since then, the “clever financial machinations” of Italian organised crime have pushed the Guardia to a level of “investigative brilliance” that other countries’ agencies struggle to match. Because mafiosi don’t fear prison, the Guardia’s first priority is instead to seize their wealth. It’s a habit that’s proved “eminently useful” when applied to Vladimir Putin’s cronies.