Opinion: Italian Mafias exploit EU police deficiencies

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Opinion: Italian Mafias exploit EU police deficiencies

Deutsche Welle

Opinion: Italian Mafias exploit EU police deficiencies
Opinion: Italian Mafias exploit EU police deficiencies. picture-alliance/dpa/C. Reichwein
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For decades, Mafia groups have emigrated to other EU countries to hide their members from Italy’s justice system, to look for smuggling routes (mainly for drugs) and to launder their money through investments in legitimate businesses. The countries with the strongest economies are the most profitable destinations for such investments. As early as the 1970s, the ‘ndrangheta Mafia’s income from racketeering and kidnappings in Calabria went to Switzerland and West Germany. Far more money came when the family began outperforming Sicily’s Cosa Nostra in the drug business in the 1980s.

‘Ndrangheta members outside of Italy are not the flamboyant gangsters brandishing pistols over spaghetti: They’re not the mafiosi known of Hollywood movies. In most cases, they are neatly dressed businesspeople who strive to keep a low profile. Apart from rare incidents, such as a 2007 massacre in Duisburg in which six people were killed in a hit in front of a pizzeria, they don’t really do much to trigger their neighbors’ fear. And, though the Italian police have begun to decode the family’s signals (for example, when the ‘ndrangheta subtly presents newly “promoted” mafiosi to local communities by assigning them certain positions in religious processions), the police in other countries are often oblivious to such communication. As we found out a few years ago, the ‘ndrangheta had been very active in the sale of Dutch flowers for two decades without anyone noticing it — not even the local police.

These deficiencies of law enforcement explain why Italian Mafias often prefer to launder their money abroad. With the help of lawyers, members skillfully play on the differences between the legal systems of various EU countries. Italy is the only state in the European Union in which belonging to a Mafia organization is considered a crime. Criminalizing membership has proved a big help in the pursuit of the Sicilian Mafia.Some EU countries have no regulations at all to cover such criminal networks. Germany and the Netherlands do have such legislation, but it is considered to be too lenient by the Italians.

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