Two years ago, one of Italy’s most powerful crime groups, the ‘Ndrangheta, found some 40 of its associates put behind bars in the capital of the southern province Reggio Calabria.
Most of them were businessmen, one of them a lawyer. But where the big gangs before had regularly tried to kill each other, now they were working with each other. Anti-mafia prosecutor Piero Grasso described this as an evolution of the many-headed organised crime enemy, which seems constantly to reinvent itself in Italy.
Grasso said: “The inquiry reconstructs the criminal relations in Reggio Calabria. From this has emerged a united management of illicit business, which works in favour of all the gangs sharing the profits.”
Their illegal activities are estimated to generate a turnover equivalent to 1.7 per cent of Italy’s total combined national income.
A report using Interior Ministry and transnational crime research data also says the Camorra’s revenues are 3.75 billion, ‘Ndrangheta’s around 3.5 billion and Cosa Nostra’s nearly 1.9 billion euros.
Transcrime Findings also cites the Camorra and ‘Ndrangheta together account for 70 per cent of all Italy’s criminal organisations, with Cosa Nostra accounting for 18%.
The mafia also continues to try to infiltrate legal economic activity, such as fruit and vegetable distribution in 2010. The big three groups attempted to monopolise production in the south of Italy.
Chief Anti-Mafia Prosecutor in Naples Giandomenico Lepore said: “In the lower Lazio region we started seeing the Caselesi clan working with the Sicilian Mafia, interfering with the fruit and vegetable market in Fondi, one of the biggest distributors in Italy.”
The big three are also increasingly going global, not only in Europe but Canada, Australia, Colombia and Venezuela.
And the “mafia business” portfolio is expanding in bricks and mortar. Property investment is a way to launder money, although the state has begun to step up confiscations.
Luisida De Ieso, euronews: “Joining us now is the outgoing national anti-mafia prosecutor Piero Grasso who has taken a sabbatical to run as a Democrat Party candidate for the Senate for the Lazio region.
“The political class appears helpless and wrong-footed by the mafia’s financial dealing. Is it time now for an international approach to combating the mafia?”
Piero Grasso: “The mafia is now a transnational phenomenon. It commits crimes and carries out operations in several different countries so we have to find the evidence in collaboration with other countries.”
euronews: “But are there sufficient means, on a European level, to fight against organised crime and follow the money trail?”
PG: “Italy has the most modern and effective juridique tools to fight organised crime – I’ve come to that conclusion after discussing with my foreign counterparts. What we most of all need to do is seize and confiscate illegal gains and in order to do this our legislation has advanced. But we need the same norms in all European countries as well as countries outside the bloc, in order to stop certain countries from becoming a refuge for money-laundering. We’re taking this extremely seriously in Italy. In four and half years, we’ve seized goods and property worth 40-billion euros. And we have to continue our efforts – “Putting our hands in the pockets” of the mafia is a priority.”
euronews: “Judging from your experience, what must the government now do to continue taking the fight to the mafia and what will be your political proposals on a European level?”
PG: “Regarding Italy, like I said, we have very tough legislation, but we need to refine it for example by adopting measures against money-laundering and all those connected with such operations at all levels. What’s more we need measures to unblock secret accounts to combat fiscal fraud. We also need to improve our anti-corruption laws. On an international level, I think that we must try to export the Italian model, especially our norms regarding the seizure of property. A number of countries have already adopted similiar systems.”
euronews: “Give us an example of what you’d do as part of a future government?”
PG: “I’d like measures allowing the state to seize the property of those suspected of being involved in organised crime.”
euronews: “The fight against the mafia is also a fight against a mentality, I’m thinking in particular about favouritism. How can you go about changing this in your role as a member of parliament?”
PG: “The fight against the mafia is not only about repression. It’s also about changing people’s culture. But in order to acheive this objective, we first of all have to resolve people’s problems and needs. The mafia, and often politics too, takes advantage of this and promises to solve these problems but it doesn’t act, it only makes people into slaves. All this weakens our democracy and people’s freedoms, so we need social policies which try to meet people’s needs and give everyone a better chance of survival. It’s only on this basis can we construct a culture that’s legal.”