Harsher Laws Fueled Mafia Expansion Outside Italy

Da Ciro, one of 23 restaurants seized by the police in Rome.
"Buy everything."
--An Italian mob boss caught on wiretap in 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell; he was giving an order to a lieutenant who'd just been told to immediately go to East Germany.

The International New York Times reported that harsher laws in Italy have led criminal rings to seek new territory abroad. In this year alone, according to the report: "Italian officials seized € 51 million, or $70 million, in mob properties and other assets in Rome, providing a small glimpse of the legal business interests that southern clans control in the capital."

The "mob economy" as Italian officials call it, "has rapidly expanded across Europe."

...organized crime groups are sitting on mountains of cash. They have taken advantage of the economic crisis to accelerate their infiltration of legitimate businesses outside their strongholds in southern Italy, and now control commercial interests in Rome and Milan, as well as in Spain, Scotland, Germany, France, the Netherlands and beyond. 
‘‘For the last 20 years, they have a lot of liquidity,’’ said Michele Prestipino, the anti-Mafia prosecutor who oversaw the recent crackdown and seizures. ‘‘This is a problem today. They have too much money. They can’t invest it all. It is the opposite of what happens to regular entrepreneurs.’’

Organized crime families were long considered an Italian problem, as well as an American problem, I'd add, but with evidence of mob activity showing up in various places, officials seemed to have reconsidered this, prompting developments such as:

In February, the European Parliament passed a directive making it easier for national authorities to confiscate criminal assets, in response to evidence that organized crime groups had gobbled up properties and companies across Europe. 
Anti-Mafia experts say that Europe needs to introduce tough laws, such as those that already exist in Italy, and expand its enforcement efforts. Some say the same focus that is applied to fighting terrorism should be applied to confronting organized crime. In addition to Italian mob groups, other criminal organizations, including from Russia, China and Albania, are moving into legal business sectors in Europe, they caution. 
‘‘Democracies underestimate the fight against the Mafia,’’ said Giuseppe Lumia, a senator and member of Italy’s Anti-Mafia Commission. ‘‘Mafias have become global. They do business, and do money laundering, between countries. But the anti-Mafia agencies are national and local.’’

Estimates of the mob's annual earnings vary widely, and are generally believed to fall between €10 billion and €220 billion. One of Italy’s largest business associations, Confesercenti, has estimated that organized crime accounts for roughly €130 billion in annual turnover, or roughly 7 percent of Italy’s gross domestic product. The Mafias had roughly €65 billion in cash reserves, as well.

‘‘They have amounts of money that are incredible,’’ said David Ellero, a specialist in Italian organized crime at Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency. ‘‘In some investigations, the flows of cash were so conspicuous that rather than counting it, it was being weighed on scales.’’

Here is an update on the three Mafias:
  • The richest Mafia group is believed to be the ’Ndrangheta, in Calabria region. The group controls much of Europe’s cocaine trade. Experts say that the ’Ndrangheta is active in Spain, Germany, France, Switzerland and Britain. There also was the recent indictment in New York
  • The Camorra clans, based in the area around Naples, are especially powerful in southern Spain.
  • Cosa Nostra, the Sicilian mob families, are also active across Europe.

At home, Italy’s Mafia groups often infiltrate local politics and control territory via threats and violence. The Mafias are heavily involved in sectors such as construction, mining, waste management and transportation, where their political influence allows them to steer government contracts to their favored firms.

In northern Italy and in other European countries, organized crime groups operate far less conspicuously, experts say, especially since they lack the same level of political or territorial influence. But a report presented this month to European Union officials concluded that mob tentacles were in nearly every sector: hotels, nightclubs, real estate, gambling, construction, retail gasoline sales, wholesaling of clothing and jewelry, food processing, health care, renewable energy and more. 
‘‘They have specific preferences for certain sectors,’’ said Michele Riccardi, a researcher at Transcrime, the research institute in Milan that compiled the report presented to the European Union. ‘‘These are the sectors that seem more vulnerable, and the regulations are looser.’’
Italy has Europe’s toughest anti-Mafia statutes, which is one reason many organized crime families have pushed into other European countries. Germany has become an especially fertile terrain.

Italian began heavily migrating to Germany in the 1950s.

Last week, Der Spiegel cited a confidential overview by the Federal Criminal Police Office that criticized the German nation for not doing enough to battle the Mafia, which had earned about €123 million in Germany over the past decade.

The police report also found that Cosa Nostra had infiltrated the construction sector, the Camorra focused on peddling counterfeit consumer goods, and the ’Ndrangheta was selling adulterated olive oil and other foodstuffs. "Mobsters controlled at least 300 pizzerias in Germany, it said, and were using these businesses to enter the legitimate economy."


  1. How is it that all of these nations are all under the eu but have different laws with regards to crime?

    1. Good question; I believe EU is more of an economic union involving one currency, the euro, don't know extent of its law enforcement powers. Anyone out there know?

  2. Believe me the Germans, Italians, French and the rest of them have different cultures and values. They could never ever come together on criminal laws not in a million years. The only reason they even came together on the Euro was because half of their economies were sinking into oblivion.


Post a Comment