Italian mafia homicides have fallen by almost half in recent years, underscoring the gangsters' shift into what look like legitimate business sectors.
Anna Alvazzi del Frate, research director of the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey think tank, said mafia killings in Italy dropped by 43 per cent between 2007 and 2010 and that the trend was continuing.
"We think that this may be related to the increasing involvement of mafia groups in business relations, for example through money laundering, including involvement with the white-collar sector," Alvazzi del Frate said.
According to the Small Arms Survey's annual study, the risks of using extreme violence appear to outweigh the perceived benefits for Italy's crime syndicates.
"This may lead them to avoid visibility and not draw law enforcement's attention," Alvazzi del Frate said. "The problem of infiltration of organised crime into legal business is a very, very serious problem.
"However, despite the reduction in lethal violence, mafia groups continue to maintain extensive firearm arsenals."
Among other issues probed was the relationship between conflicts and illicit market prices for ammunition.
For example, prices in Lebanon for ammunition for M16 and Kalashnikov assault rifles jumped in April 2011, a month after the outbreak of the civil war in neighbouring Syria.
The study showed that the global trade in small arms is worth around US$8.5 billion a year, with the illicit market making up almost half that sum.