The economic crisis in Italy has even hit organised crime, forcing mafia bosses to cut costs, Italian investigators have revealed.

Police wiretappings have recorded Palermo Mafia boss Renzo Lo Nigro of the Noce clan hearing a complaint about his decision to axe traditional "social security" handouts to families of mobsters who have been jailed. Lo Nigro cited shrinking revenues for the cuts.

"I have to make a living, my husband has to make a living, my children have to make a living," the wife of a jailed mobster was recorded complaining to Lo Nigro.

"November, December, January and then I didn't see anyone. It is not right that you abandon my husband that gave his life for you."

The woman's husband was arrested along with other 40 members of the Noce clan in October.

The police raid was a hard blow for the clan, which was suddenly left short of street soldiers and on top of that had to pay out 41 new lots of "solidarity wages" to the families whose breadwinners had been thrown into jail.

Revenue was already down because of the economic crisis.

"Because of the economic crisis businessmen have become more resilient to pay the 'pizzo' [protection money]," Palermo police official Antonino De Santis said.

"Extortions alone can't make up for the organisation's economic needs any more. So the Cosa Nostra is getting back strongly into drug trafficking, but because of the many arrests they are forced to recruit less skilled mobsters."

Palermo's anti-mafia prosecutors Francesco Del Bene, Lia Sava and Gianluca de Leo tracked down a cocaine trafficking ring that led them to Lo Nigro.

He was arrested along with other five suspects on mafia and drug trafficking charges.