Mafias in Europe


It was 1962 when the American mathematician Edward Lorenz studied and elaborated the so-called “butterfly effect”, probably inspired by “A Sound of Thunder”, a story by Ray Bradbury. The writer of the famous novel “Fahrenheit 451” imagines that, in the future dystopian fixed in 2055, the protagonist, a hunter who, during a “safari in time”, tramples on and kills a butterfly, causing political, social, cultural changes in his present.

Lorenz elaborated mathematically and physically the hypothesis that “a beat of the wings of a seagull would be enough to alter the course of the climate forever”: the seagull, which later became a more romantic butterfly, would cause a shift of matter such as to trigger infinitesimal but decisive changes in reality that could also cause a hurricane to originate in another part of the world.

The more than suggestive Lorenz theory, endowed with a bursting imaginative force, has been the basis for successful scripts such as Donnie Darko and The Butterfly Effect; it has inspired singers and artists and, over time, has served to explain philosophical theories, related to human destiny and environmental theories, related to climate change.

Among the various applications of the concept, interesting is the instrumental use that is often made of the butterfly effect to explain globalization: the global market, wrongly defined as inevitable and part of human evolution, has triggered over time invisible links between places in the world apparently disconnected. A fire in a shoe factory in Thailand, for example, can cause considerable damage to an American-based multinational company, causing its stock market price to drop and affecting employment in the areas of the world where the multinational company operates. The most emblematic example is certainly that of the Great Crisis of 2008: the deregulation of the financial markets allowed incredible – and complicated – speculation by the largest financial players in the United States (Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan among them), especially in the real estate market. When the speculative bubble burst, a domino effect was triggered that led first to the bankruptcy of the world’s largest insurance company (AIG), then to the collapse of the world stock exchange, to the point of affecting the daily lives of billions of people, especially in the poorest and most underdeveloped countries, step by step.

Globalization has allowed us to find Asian or South American products on the shelves of our supermarkets; it has allowed us to know the political controversies of this or that Sub-Saharan country; it has allowed us to connect and create bridges between economic and social realities that are very distant from each other. But as the butterfly effect teaches, each clap of wings corresponds to a hurricane.

One of the many, too many negative and uncontrolled – but not uncontrollable – effects of globalization has been and still is the exponential growth of organized crime: the almost feudal Sicilian Mafia families, the barbaric “ndrine” of the ‘ndrangheta, the Camorra clans have decided to learn English, German, Spanish and have had the ability to cross the Italian and European borders.

For this reason, defining the characteristics of the Italian criminal organizations today is very difficult and complex. Like two-headed Janus, in fact, on the one hand, they are deeply tied to their territories of origin, where they continue to maintain a power deeply tied to the popular consensus; on the other, instead, they have acquired a strong propensity to emigrate and explore beyond the Italian borders in search of the most fertile lands to sow and then reap their criminal fruits.

At this point, it is necessary to open a parenthesis. For decades, the mafias have differentiated their sectors of investment, in search of a giant “washing machine” of their dirty money always in operation. It is fundamental for the mafias to invest as much as possible in legal activities which allow the use of their own dirty money deriving from activities such as the trade of drugs, prostitution, pizzo, and so on. For this reason, to speak of “mafia organization” today means to speak of a real “mafia enterprise”, whose primary purpose is profit, characterized by a renewed ability to blend with the legal market and with agents active in the European and global economic landscape. The mafias earn, invest and risk just like any other company and, given their immense economic capacity, they are comparable to a few multinationals in the world. According to a recent study by the Anti-Mafia Parliamentary Commission, Italian mafias have a turnover (i.e. a sum of revenues) of around EUR 150 billion, more than the first Italian multinational (Exor, which includes Juventus and Fiat, for example, which in 2018 had a turnover of EUR 143 billion).

Capital. Investments. Globalisation. The golden words that characterize the unbridled neo-liberalism, today, are the same words that can be used for the various forms of organized crime, Italian (the ‘ndrangheta above all) and foreign (such as the Mexican and Colombian Narcos and the Russian mafia). And also in this case, the butterfly effect takes its course. As when, in 2007, one of the typical internal feuds of the ‘ndrangheta – the one between the Nirta-Strangio and Pelle-Vottari clans – originated in the Calabrian hinterland, in San Luca, motherland of what is today recognized as the strongest criminal organization in the world and monopolist of the European cocaine market – had its devastating effects on very distant places, geographically and culturally. It is Germany, in fact, the scenario in which, on the day of August 15 of twelve years ago, the internal war between the Calabrian clans was definitively consummated: in Duisburg, a city famous for its steel and its immense river port, in front of the restaurant Da Bruno (one of the many “washing machines” of the ‘ndrangheta), the typical Teutonic silence was broken by the explosion of dozens and dozens of blows. 6 victims, all belonging to the Pelle-Vottari clan, aged between 16 and 39. The two main principals, Giovanni Strangio and Francesco Nirta, were arrested a few years later not in the arid San Luca, not in bunkers well hidden among the sewers of Calabria, not in houses protected by a frightened and silent neighbourhood, but in Holland. The first, in fact, was arrested in Amsterdam, in 2009; the second near Utrecht, in Nieuwegein, in 2013.

A feud in San Luca, a massacre in Duisburg, two arrests in Holland: this is globalisation. Here is the butterfly effect. Faraway stories that intersect, distant countries that become scenarios of the same tragedies, apparently parallel lines that intersect giving rise to twisted mazes. As well as the stories of the last two innocent victims of mafia, Jan Kuciak and Martina Kusnirova, twenty-seven years old Slovaks, engaged, and Antonino Vadalà, born in Bova Marina, in the province of Reggio Calabria, known for years by the Italian authorities. Jan was a brilliant journalist and was working on an investigation into the relationship between ‘ndrangheta and the Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, aimed at discovering an immense turnover based on the illegal interception of European funds. Vadalà, already known by Italian investigators for having hidden the drug dealer Domenico “Mico” Ventura, escaped from Bova Marina in Slovakia where he started fervent business activities and acquired more and more power as a referent of the criminal association, establishing relations with the Prime Minister of the country. Jan’s investigations were brutally silenced on February 21, 2018, the day in which he and Martina were killed in their home, but the butterfly effect, this time, led to a hurricane of collective anger and solidarity: Robert Fico, in fact, was forced to resign from the Slovak protests, squares filled as never before since the Velvet Revolution of 1989 to demand loudly new elections.

Immense economic availability (comparable to a few states or multinationals in the world), intercontinental ramifications and permeating capacity in many areas of society: perhaps Marlon Brando, the actor who played the famous Godfather, was right when he said that “the mafia is the best example of capitalism that we have”.

BKA and Interior Minister Seehofer present the situation of Organized Crime in Germany


Unfortunately, the figures published on 24th September 2019 by the BKA and the Federal Ministry of the Interior do not represent a successful story. The number of proceedings against organised crime (which by itself is a very broad field and by no means only includes complex organised mafia groups) has fallen from 572 to 535 compared to the previous year.

Considering that the topic of fighting organised crime has moved back into the spotlight with the discovery of so-called Clan-Kriminalität, this decline is even more drastic. But that is not all. The data prove that the fight against organised crime in Germany is not effective.

There are up to 1000 members of the ‘ndrangheta in Germany, but investigations reach just 124 people.

The Green parliamentary group in the Bundestag is grateful for the fact that the federal government must count Mafiosi in Germany every year. In May of this year, the government reported that:

The estimated number of members to be attributed to ‘ndrangheta is between 800 and 1000“.

Now we learn that last year there were 13 investigations against all members of the Italian Organized Crime, (besides the ‘ndrangheta also Cosa Nostra, Camorra and others). One less case than last year. The fact that 124 members of the ‘ndrangheta were investigated speaks for itself. This means that 9 out of 10 mafiosi remain unharmed in Germany, 9 out of 10 members of criminal organisations can take their time and rule as they please. With the other organizations (Camorra, Cosa Nostra etc.) the picture is the same.

The inadequacy of our State action in the field of Organised Crime is also shown by the low amount of confiscated assets.

Million-dollar revenues remain with the gangsters.

The damage caused by criminal activities is estimated at 691 million euros. Income from criminal activities is estimated at 675 million euros. For now, 72 million euros has been held from criminals. Taking these numbers for granted, even though they are certainly lower than reality, more than 600 million euros remain to them. Or, to put it another way, it is very worth it to be a criminal in Germany.

Why is not easy to estimate the incomes made by criminal organisations? If one calculates what the profits of confiscated drugs would have been on the market, one must assume billions in revenues. This is joined by other criminal activities. And another point that is regularly forgotten at the annual exhibition of the Federal Republic of Germany’s security order: Organized crime groups are not only illegally active; they also use the Federal Republic’s economic system for their activities. For legal activities. It is difficult to estimate them. But, to completely ignore them alone speaks for a reduced view on organized crime.

We finally need a new edition of the Periodic Safety Report.

The Federal Situation Report on Organised Crime is based on investigations that have been carried out. This is a banal statement, but with far-reaching consequences. What does not appear in investigation proceedings or where preliminary investigation proceedings are not transferred to formal investigation proceedings is not found in the Federal Situation Picture.

In view of the increasing pressure to succeed in investigations and lower resources for structural investigations (where it is not a question of identifying perpetrators but of clarifying criminal structures) as well as the frequent lack of personnel in the police forces of the Länder, it is obvious that the federal situation picture cannot show a real picture of the conditions in the country, with the exception of the activities of the police forces, which it reflects.

This report does not say what the situation is regarding organized crime in Germany. It only shows what is being done against organized crime. This is a big difference! Mafianeindanke asked the Federal Minister of the Interior at the beginning of June to finally compile the Periodic Security Report. This report scientifically explains the state of Germany’s security. Crime and organised crime naturally play a major role, as the reports produced in the past show. Since this report has other data available as a source material, this gives a different view on the issue. Federal Interior Minister Seehofer said at the beginning of June that the report was coming. He did not give an exact date.

Tears and Thrillers – the Summer School on Mafia and Women in Milan conveys new knowledge


It can happen that you listen to a prosecutor’s account of her trying to stop a cooperating witness on her way to doom and the vehicle seems to pass through every road barrier unnoticed, and all she had at her disposal was a GPS signal. No car type, no eavesdropping, just a dot on the screen.

You may wonder why it is better not to see women in mafia clans as victims, but rather to consider factors that make them particularly vulnerable, because weakness arises from victim status, but vulnerability can be a resource of strength.

It also happens that you – and almost everyone else in the course, including the professors – are moved to tears by a play and feel the power of words. And it can happen that after a week and a total of 40 hours of teaching, the highest Italian anti-Mafia prosecutor will personally present you with your diploma. The Summer School at the University of Milan on several topics of organized crime is without a doubt something special. Participating in it, if you speak Italian, is a great privilege.

But if you come from Germany, it also leaves you a little sad. About the fact that there is no such event in Germany, which is aimed equally at a professional and a public audience. And of course, the old and still urgent story that the topic of organized crime and the mafia in Italy is receiving the attention and support that one seeks in vain in Germany. For the ninth time, the University of Milan organized this seminar. This year the topic was Mafia and Women, and it also saw the participation of the Italian anti-Mafia organisation Libera. On the university side, the programme was designed by three professors: Nando dalla Chiesa, Monica Massari and Ombretta Ingrascì and CROSS (Research Institute on Organized Crime). They are all researching the mafia and organized crime – which alone shows how far ahead Italy is in this regard. One of the organisers is also Sarah Mazzenzana, a former mafianeindanke volunteer. This year there were around 40 permanent participants: policemen and policewomen, public prosecutors, students, teachers, seniors and interested citizens. One participant came all the way from Washington.

It is difficult to summarize a week so rich in impressions and insights. One possible conclusion is that the male view on women in organized crime made a comprehensive view of the phenomenon virtually impossible. On a broad scale, the vision on clans as pure male entities still prevails. In fact, women play significant roles in all important organisations in Italy (‘ndrangheta, Cosa Nostra, Camorra and the smaller groups).

The Neapolitan Camorra, which sees itself as the most “progressive” organization, has experienced female bosses. Even the example of a trans woman leading a group is documented. Various interviews with female witnesses have also shown that the importance of women is far greater than just raising children and passing on the (dis)values of the mafia. It is also true, however, that within the Calabrian ‘ndrangheta it is significant for the clans to keep women under as much control as possible, precisely because their function is so central for the clans – even if they are not formally allowed to become members and thus do not assume an official function. For example, when Giusy Pesce became a cooperating witness and changed sides, the opposing clan Bellocco celebrated and mocked that the Pesce obviously could not keep their women under control.

Clan’s women often take on service functions as lawyers or financial administrators and accountants. This helps to understand the ‘ndrangheta not as a monolithic block, but as a network of different clans who do not all maintain the same rules and procedural patterns.

In the Summer School, however, the focus was not only on the women of the mafia, but also on those who fought it. Some were actually present, such as the prosecutors Alessandra Cerreti and Alessandra Dolci. Listening their experiences with key witnesses was exciting, shocking and enlightening. Their stories resembled a thriller – only with female leading roles. Female dropouts also had their say: the stage director Mimmo Sorrentino, for example, reported on how his plays were created. He works in maximum security prisons with confined mafia women. He gets to know their matters by asking them to tell the story of their fellow prisoners. Only this trick makes it possible to deal with one’s own life. Two women who played in his dramas reported how impressive this can be. One of the actresses told how she fell in love with a young man, a high-ranking mafioso from a well-known family. It is also testimonies like these that not only deepen the knowledge on organized crime, but also make it vivid.

The support of the Summer School by the highest authorities was surprising. Giuseppe Sala, the mayor of Milan, came to the opening and announced that the municipality would support the tenth edition of the Summer School in the coming year. Italy’s highest anti-Mafia prosecutor Federico Cafiero de Raho personally handed over testimonies at the end, along with many other important people.

Combating Money Laundering at a local level: the example of Amsterdam


On September 6, 2019 we participated in the conference on money laundering organized by ”Die Linke” at the Bundestag. On this occasion, the speech of Bas ter Luun, Senior Advisor of the Department of Public Order and Safety at the City of Amsterdam, was very interesting.

The Dutch capital – explained ter Luun during his presentation – is a nerve center of illicit drug trafficking. The consumption is also very high in the city, it is estimated that in 2018 was consumed cocaine worth millions of dollars. Drug traffickers can rely on a network of corrupt brokers to help them locate secure apartments and places where they can carry out their trafficking undisturbed.

In addition, a main concern is money laundering, particularly in the real estate sector. In Amsterdam, the proceeds of illicit trafficking are invested in properties, for example in sectors as catering and restaurants, tourism and other attractions that the city offers. Luxury goods are also a popular target for organised crime in the Netherlands.

In this regard, the city administration takes initiatives and measures to combat money laundering. Firstly, it is essential to study the phenomenon in depth. For this purpose, the city of Amsterdam uses cross-referencing data on income and ownership. The combination of fiscal and housing data is then processed. This information allows us to obtain statistical data and analyse the results to see where the accounts do not add up. There may be cases and areas of interest where income data does not match linearly with ownership data. It is in these cases, therefore, that a wake-up call is triggered, and a more in-depth analysis is carried out.

The operational phase, then, involves the screening of subsidies, permits and local real estate transactions. The approach that is carried out is multi-agency, as more actors are involved (Police, tax and customs administration, legal bodies). It is necessary in this phase to establish a fruitful collaboration between the public and private sectors in the contrast of money laundering and housing fraud.

But what can other cities do to face similar problems, become resilient and follow the example of Amsterdam? First, explains ter Luun, it is necessary to raise awareness and create structures of contrast within the public administration. Then you must work together with stakeholders within society. Moreover, the sharing of information and intelligence between the different law enforcement agencies is fundamental. Finally, it is necessary to cooperate with the other European cities to contrast the money laundering.

Ter Luum’s speech was received with great curiosity and in the margins of the conference he granted us a brief interview.

For us was quite new to hear that a city engages someone responsible for money loundering. How did that happen in Amsterdam?

”It all started in the 90s. There was a parliamentary inquiry and part of it was an investigation in the city centre conducted by criminologists. The conclusions showed that many real estates but also other economic sectors like prostitution and coffee shops were owned by organized crime. In addition, the city itself somehow facilitated all that since permits and licences were granted quite easily. That led to the decision by the city administration in the mid ‘90s to invest in qualified personnel to combat money loundering.’’

Is that a common model for the Netherlands or it is limited only to Amsterdam?

‘’It started in Amsterdam, but soon other cities throughout the country followed the model. On a national level there’s a structure that facilitates the cooperation between different government agencies and that strengthen local authorities and mayors to combat organized crime.’’

Are you also working together and cooperating with police forces?

‘’Yes, we exchange information with them. It happens for a screening of applicants for permits, for example. But we also cooperate in the enforcement of the rules. For instance: in the hospitality industry, coffee shops, bars, there are certain rules enforced by the municipality. In these places there could be a commission of crimes. In some cases, the enforcement of the local government and the police work together to conduct the inspections.’’

The Netherlands have a quite liberal drug policy. Is that interfering somehow with money laundering? In a positive or negative way?

‘’Because of the coffee shop system – where you can sell marijuana – a large industry, which is not regulated, could grow. This industry has a lot of proceeds, makes a lot of money and this money must be invested somewhere.’’

Was it complicated to get an overview of money laundering activities in your town?

‘’I don’t think we have the overview yet. It’s really complicated.’’

Are you also lobbying on national policy makers or is this not part of your job?

It can be part of my job to lobby on national policy makers. For example, when we realize that a certain power or instrument doesn’t work well, we need the legislation to be changed. Hence, we show by cases what has to be done.

Do you have also civil society organizations like ours active in that field in Amsterdam?

‘’Not enough in the field of money loundering. From the outcomes of this conference I observed that is something we need also in our country. Anyhow, in the field of human trafficking and prostitution there is cooperation between the NGO’s and the local government.’’

Could you tell us more about the powers of the Dutch mayors and of the local administrations in the Netherlands? Are there in Germany comparable models of tackling money laundering on the municipal level?

‘’The Dutch mayors are responsible for public order and safety. They have the executive power to close houses or to fill restraining orders. That could be maybe comparable to what happens in Germany. What is peculiar of the Dutch mayors and does not apply to Germany or other countries are the screening instruments they have. A mayor can obtain information from the police, from the tax service and then use these instruments.’’

And of course, one question of interest: what are the prevalent organized crime groups in Amsterdam?

The motorcycle gangs are still there. They do not have a top house in the city anymore, since we managed to get rid of it, but they return occasionally on their vehicles. We see also Albanian networks, in relation to drug trafficking. There are also the old Dutch networks which were quite big at the beginning of this millennium. We see also the networks composed by second and third generation of immigrants who now took over all the positions in the drug trafficking. These are the groups, but the situation it’s more fluid.

And what about the Italian organized crime?

”It is present also in Amsterdam. There are some reports about the presence of ‘ndrangheta clans in the Netherlands.”

Mafia kills


Some time ago, a message sent by McDonald’s to its customers in Austria caused a sensation: “Hey Mafioso, try our new Bacon della Casa now! Bella Italia”. The American company justified itself by saying that the use of the word mafioso was a mistake. However, the billboards hanging in Vienna included the following sentence: “Für echte Mampfiosi” (“For the real Mampfiosi”) to advertise a new Mediterranean-style sandwich. The sentence is based on a play on words between the verb mampfen (gorging) and the term mafiosi. Leaving aside the weak justifications and the political propaganda that has been generated around this event, the word mafia and the status of mafioso are again used abroad with a sort of boast.

As said, it is not the first and will certainly not be the last example of this type, last year the eyes of the public opinion were focused on the Spanish restaurant chain “La Mafia se siente a la mesa” (“The Mafia sits at the table”), present in Spain with over 40 venues and which uses the brand “mafia” in their corporate identity. The European Union Court, following a formal request for cancellation of the trademark by Italy, declared that the name of the chain could not be registered with the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) with the following grounds: “The verbal element ‘the mafia’ dominates the Spanish company’s trademark and is globally understood as referring to a criminal organisation which, in particular, has resorted to intimidation, physical violence and murder in order to carry out its activities, which include illicit trafficking in drugs and arms, money laundering and corruption”. Furthermore, “such criminal activities violate the very values on which the Union is founded, in particular the values of respect for human dignity and freedom, which are indivisible and constitute the spiritual and moral heritage of the Union. Moreover, in view of their transnational dimension, the criminal activities of the mafia pose a serious threat to the security of the Union as a whole”.

Also here in Berlin, we unfortunately have examples of this type, in which the word mafia is not only used in a positive way, but the very structure of the criminal organisation is brought to be a founding element of who uses it. This is the example of the theatre-group Mafia Penguins, which describes its team as “La Familia”. Or the German school Sprachmafia, which offers language courses in the Neukölln district.

This is no longer acceptable. And not just out of national pride, but out of respect. Respect for those 1011 innocent victims of the mafias who have been killed by gunfire, bombs, terrorist attacks, for those who, in Italy and abroad, have fought and are fighting the mafia with all their strength, by doing their job. Today, mafia, organised crime, corruption, money laundering, are problems that affect all countries, mafia has become global, and it is time that even the feeling of the population and the efforts of countries go in a common direction to battle these phenomena that are no longer all Italian.

Because yes, the mafia kills, does not sit at the table, and the word mafia is stained by the blood of innocent victims and cannot be used for futile business reasons.

Sicily: the land of Antimafia


NO MAFIA MEMORIAL

Since the murder of Peppino Impastato occurred on May 9, 1978 – known by the movie-public thanks to “I Cento Passi” movie – not only his mother, but also his friends Umberto Santino and Anna Puglisi have been tirelessly searching for justice and documenting the mafia. The Centro di Documentazione Giuseppe Impastato in Cinisi, founded in 1977, has been collecting material on the history of the Mafia and the anti-Mafia movement ever since.

Now the Centro has opened a museum in the heart of Palermo, in the Historical Palace of Gulì, donated by the city of Palermo. The new “No-Mafia-Memorial” hosts three permanent and one temporary exhibition and it is intended not only to give multi-media access to the topic, but also to be a place for exchange – and I can confirm, it is! To my surprise, both Umberto Santino – who is the author of many books on the Mafia – and Anna Puglisi (author of the book “Donne, Mafia e Anti-Mafia“) were there and we immediately entered into an animated conversation about the court trials, false witnesses and the Mafia in Germany.

The visit of the Museum is free of charge and in this place, like at mafianeindanke, you can see how much commitment, heart and soul it takes to do a good job with little money, based only on donations and voluntary support! Thank you, Umberto Santino, Anna Puglisi e Ario Mendiola (Art Director of the Museum), keep it going! Also mafianeindanke is working on the concept for a documentation center or better said, for an observatory on organized crime in Germany and we are looking for donors.

MONUMENTO ALLE VITTIME DELLA STRAGE DI CAPACI

We were with friends by the sea, right in front of the “Isola delle Femmine” – less than 300 meters away from the place where the Mafia carried out a serious assassination on May 23, 1992, known as the Massacre of Capaci (“Strage di Capaci”), in which the judge Giovanni Falcone, his wife Francesca Morvillo and three police escort agents, Vito Schifani, Rocco Dicillo and Antonio Montinaro, were murdered and 23 people injured. Today, right next to the motorway that connects Palermo to the airport and Trapani, there is a garden dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Mafia. There, next to a high stele, old and young olive trees grow, and each tree is dedicated to a victim of the Mafia attacks. A forest of olive trees.

There we met a man who removed garbage. A volunteer, a visitor from Rome, who was also on holiday in Sicily. We took the son of our friends there with us, an 11-year-old Italian-German from Berlin. He knows about the terroristic attack and he knows the details as every Italian does: the Strage di Capaci has a similar weight for Italians as the attack on the Twin Towers in the USA has. Everyone knows where he was in that special moment. And since then, everything has changed. Almost all today’s anti-mafia initiatives in Italy have their origin or their founding motivation from that very summer of 1992. It is always important to remember, even as a German, how many innocent victims of the mafia there are. Not only in Italy but also in Malta, Slovakia and Germany, it is too easy to think that all the people murdered by the mafia are Mafiosi killed in some mafia wars. But that is wrong. Behind every Mafia Euro laundered in Germany there are innocent victims.

ADDIOPIZZO

Mafianeindanke’s partner Addiopizzo was born 15 years ago, and the founders joined the growing anti-mafia-movement after the Strage di Capaci and the Strage di Via d’Amelio, which took place less than 6 weeks later and in which the judge Paolo Borsellino was murdered. When those youngsters wrote their business plan for the opening of a restaurant, they were reminded by their advisor that a certain percentage of money had to be planned for the “Pizzo” – an injustice that they couldn’t bear! So shameful that the founders decided to surprise the whole city of Palermo with a nightly action, putting stickers in mourning announcements that said: “An entire community who pays the Pizzo is a community without dignity”.

The Palermitans felt insulted and outraged by that message, the press got excited and hectic, searching for the authors of the sticker. After the founders of Addiopizzo declared publicly their intention of creating a network of commercial activities not paying the Pizzo, they started first collecting thousands of signatures from citizens who agreed to shop in places that explicitly didn’t pay the Pizzo, to eat in pizzerias and restaurants that went against the mafia. Only after having collected the signatures of several thousand potential customers they went to restaurant owners and other business holders with this list to get their approval to found an association of commercial activities that refused to pay. Even today, 15 years and 10,000 members later, Addiopizzo organizes an annual fair where suppliers and customers can get to know each other directly. In the meantime, the Comitato has also founded a travel agency, Addiopizzotravel, which offers free travel through the beautiful Sicily, as well as half-day anti-mafia tours, which can be booked directly, but also through various portals.

Mafianeindanke is often asked, what can a German do against the Mafia? Well, for example, to take part in these kind of travels to Sicily and support all those who said no to the mafia. By the way; there are still places available for the trip to Sicily with addiopizzo in October.

The German perspective 12 years after the Duisburg massacre


Exactly 12 years ago, on 15th August 2007, the Duisburg massacre shook Germany and turned the spotlight on the ‘ndrangheta, a criminal organization which, until then, had been particularly silent outside its own territories of origin.

On the night of August 15, 2007, six men between the ages of 16 and 39 lost their lives, all originating in the province of Reggio Calabria, except for Tommaso Venturi, originally from Corigliano Calabro, who was turning 18 years old on that day. The victims were hit by two killers at the exit of the Italian restaurant ”Da Bruno”, where they had spent the evening to celebrate the birthday of the friend. The renowned restaurant in the town in North Rhine-Westphalia was already known to the Italian and German police as a place of money laundering. The killers, to ensure the success of the ambush, cooled each of their victims with a final blow to the head. The burnt image of St. Michael the Archangel was found in the clothes of the celebrant, a sign of a possible affiliation to the clan celebrated just that evening.

The Duisburg massacre, also known as the Ferragosto massacre, is the last episode of the bloody feud of San Luca, which began in 1991 and which saw the Nirta-Strangio oppose the Pelle-Vottari-Romeo. The feud, which apparently began for futile reasons, has seen a series of settlements of accounts, often perpetrated in days significant from the symbolic and religious point of view. The aim of hitting one’s enemies during the festivities is to make the pain of the victim’s relatives even deeper, so that one day of celebration becomes a day of mourning forever.

According to this scheme, the clash between the warring factions was re-ignited by the murder of Maria Strangio, wife of the boss Giovanni Nirta, which took place in San Luca on 25 December 2006, in an ambush whose main objective was the Calabrian boss. The weapons used on that occasion came from Duisburg.

It is in this framework that the decision of the Nirta-Strangio to attack their rivals even abroad, in Germany, more than 2000 km away from San Luca (RC), is to be traced back, running the enormous risk of attracting the attention of the forces of law and order and public opinion to themselves, unexpectedly defeating the strategy of camouflage which had had been enormously successful, allowing the ‘ndrangheta to take root and reproduce its own organizational model also abroad. Behind the attack of Duisburg, however, there was not only a thirst for revenge. There was also the will to reaffirm one’s own criminal power and to obtain control of the illicit traffics in the region. Drug trafficking generated enormous profits and the region of North Rhine-Westphalia was a strategic junction, given its proximity to the border with Holland, where drug shipments from South America arrived at its ports. Over the years, the Calabrian clans have carried out a real territorial division of the German Land. The Nirta-Strangio, for example, control the Kaarst area, while the Pelle-Vottari-Romeo extend their dominion over the Duisburg area. In this case, the Rhine River separates the respective areas of influence of the rival clans.

Germany is the European country where the ‘ndrangheta has managed to penetrate more effectively, despite the apparent cultural incompatibility. The massacre of Ferragosto showed all the ease of action and confidence of the criminal organization of Calabrian origin that is, one step at a time, colonizing the German territory. This episode, however, has revealed to the whole world the ferocious and criminal nature of the ‘ndrangheta. The excessive exposure has undoubtedly had negative effects for the organization, at least in the immediate future.

The German public opinion, in fact, has finally realized its existence. The Italian and German investigative authorities have developed a fruitful relationship of collaboration which has led, in the period following the massacre, to the capture and arrest of numerous affiliates involved in the feud of San Luca.

On the one hand, there were already several signs that indicated a strong penetration of the ‘ndrangheta in Germany. On the other hand, however, they were long underestimated and only the shock caused by the Duisburg massacre opened the eyes of public opinion and institutions. However, the initial astonishment soon made room for ‘removal’ by German society. The image of Duisburg – and of the whole of Germany – could not be polluted by the presence of the mafia. The negative image had to be erased and the episode forgotten. Once the trial for the facts of Duisburg was transferred to Italy, for Germany the case was to be considered closed. The matter was considered a business between Calabrians, a problem of Italy. This removal greatly facilitated the ‘ndrangheta, who returned to silence and became peaceful internally. Too much exposure had been a mistake and it was now necessary to give priority to business rather than internal disputes. What is striking about the ‘ndrangheta and which can also be seen by analysing the facts of Duisburg is its dual nature: on the one hand, it is a modern organisation, it takes advantage of the opportunities offered by globalization and is oriented towards profit; on the other hand, it maintains its own ancestral customs, its ties with the motherland and its rituals.

In addition to the removal by society, the ‘ndrangheta can also exploit to its own advantage the shortcomings of the German legislation, which is very weak in terms of the fight against the mafias. In Germany, for example, there is no crime of mafia association, as provided for within the Italian legal system (416 bis). The German legislation, in fact, specifies only the criminal association, through Article 129 of the Criminal Code. There is also a lack of legislation on the seizure and confiscation of property. Following the Second World War, in stark contrast to the totalitarian regime of the past, Germany adopted legislation that was strongly geared to protecting the individual. For this reason, everything that concerns the confiscation of personal property and property is very difficult to implement. German law, while in some cases providing for the possibility of seizure and confiscation of property, does not allow this to happen in a preventive manner and provides that the burden of proof is on the prosecution. All this represents an enormous limitation in the fight against the mafias. If there were greater awareness of the seriousness of the risk faced by society, these obstacles could be overcome.

The ‘ndrangheta is aware of these limits, knows that it is unlikely that Germany will adopt more effective measures in matters of confiscation of goods and therefore transforms the country into one of the main centers in which to launder the proceeds of illicit trafficking.

It is also difficult to talk about the mafia in Germany. Journalists often find themselves fighting against legislation which, in view of the extreme protection of the individual mentioned above, does not allow them to write freely about the subject. Journalists are sometimes silenced through censorship. This is the case, for example, of Petra Reski, a German investigative journalist who, after having received several complaints, has been blackened by the authorities with her book “Santa Mafia” (original title: Mafia. Von Paten, Pizzerien und falschen Priestern). Given the absence of the crime of mafia association in Germany, it is not possible to attribute links with the mafia to persons who have not already been convicted in Italy for 416 bis. There is also the right to social rehabilitation, so you cannot appoint in full (name and surname) convicted persons who have already served their sentence. Their history can be told, but people can only be named using abbreviations. The mafia in Germany can therefore make use of the lawsuit, which is much more convenient and less risky than threats and intimidation, with ample chance of success. To be the victim of these dynamics was also a documentary broadcast by the television station MDR, which focused on the economic activities of ‘ndrangheta in Erfurt, a town in Turinga that represents a real Eden for the money laundering by the criminal organization of Calabria. After having suffered a series of complaints, the documentary was also censored. Life for investigative journalists in Germany is therefore particularly difficult, there are disincentives to write about the mafia and often the publishers themselves are not willing to run the risk of publishing news on the subject to avoid running into legal trouble.

Twelve years after the events in Duisburg, the situation regarding the fight against the mafias in Germany is not the rosiest. There are many issues on which we should work and insist. First, there is a need for greater awareness of the danger of the mafia phenomenon and the risks it represents for society. Secondly, despite the presence of virtuous experiences dedicated to raising awareness on the subject, there is a need to build larger networks, which also extend to places – such as East Germany – where now there are no active realities on the anti-mafia front. There is also a need to offer more free information on the subject and of greater quality, where the fight against stereotypes of the mafias is another important issue. Finally, as we have seen in the section on this subject, it is essential to adopt legislative instruments to combat this phenomenon, which are appropriate to the scale of the phenomenon we intend to combat.

A journey “on the road”: Messina, between social anti-mafia and the desire for redemption.


Going back to Sicily always has a bittersweet taste, it gives you the feeling of being in a place where time has stopped, but underneath everything moves very quickly. This year I took part in one of the many summer camps that Libera, the organisation against Mafias, arranges throughout Italy in the assets confiscated from organized crime. I was in Messina in the seized property of Via Roosevelt, the current seat of the city committee of Addiopizzo. An atypical, wandering camp, which has tried to touch the various facets of the city, listening to the voices and testimonies of those who narrate the city every day, live it and try to make it more just.

What a better way to get to know it than by walking through its streets, admiring its beauties and listening to its history and, unavoidably, the Mafia networks that have taken place over the years. It was Nuccio Anselmo, journalist of the Gazzetta del Sud, who acted as Cicero telling us the relevant events that happened in the city giving us a fundamental overview useful to let us continue our journey in discovering the city. It was then the turn of knowing with our own hands what counter-actions are carried out in Messina thanks to the meeting with the Deputy Attorney Vito Di Giorgio who, since 1999, has been following the investigations in the city, crossroads of countless interests that are linked to a strong occult power and drug trafficking.

The city of Messina is divided into zones of influence, which are very often equal to the districts themselves, each governed by a Mafia clan that imposes its own power. Messina, however, has never been a keystone within the criminal organization of the island, the preponderant role related to the families of Palermo and Corleone has always been the one held by Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto, a town of about 50,000 inhabitants in the north coast of Sicily. The Barcellona family has always had a greater influence on the province of Messina also thanks to its internal vertical organization, similar to the one of Cosa Nostra in Palermo. According to Di Giorgio’s experience, it is an entrepreneurial Mafia that has constantly inserted itself within the legal economy, controlling most of the companies involved in the great public works and succeeding in imposing its own power thanks to violence and through many Mafia related murders, about 280, occurring for two fundamental reasons: the need of an internal cleaning and the elimination of subjects that bothered the criminal organization.

The Messina’s area has always been confronted with the plague of “Pizzo”, a widespread extortion method throughout the province, which, according to a study by the Chinnici Foundation, is the most expensive of all Sicily. The “Pizzo” is asked by Mafiosi for two main reasons: first, for economic reasons and the need of money that can be used immediately on various fronts, such as the maintenance of affiliates in prison and their families, there is also the purpose to assert their power in the region, this also generates a mechanism of fear that, combined with the little protection guaranteed by the Government, means that only a few people press charge and prefer to pay rather than risk. It is here that Di Giorgio stresses how fundamental it is that condemnations increase, but this can only be possible by having a higher level of trust in the institutions, this depends largely on the actions of the “legal operators” (ed. Legal attorneys, politicians, magistrates, men of the institutions).  A fundamental and very effective instrument to defeat the Mafias and drastically reduce their power is that of striking their patrimony: the instrument of the seizure and confiscation of the goods and properties, which becomes mortal for a mafioso, is therefore fundamental.

In this overview Libera and Addiopizzo put themselves in and try to bring to the city a participated fight against Mafias, a social anti-mafia that is not limited to the fight against organized crime, but that conveys values and choices that are totally different from the mafia mentality. This is the case of the campaign of “recruitment” of Pizzo-free business owners: create a network of merchants who oppose to the payment of the “Pizzo” to whom they give moral and legal support. Therefore, to create a clean and functioning alternative to the mafia one.

To make our contribution concrete, we have created flyers to distribute to business owners and customers to sponsor critical consumption, i.e. the purchase of products from shops that decide not to pay the “Pizzo”. Another testimony of social anti-mafia was brought to us by Angelo Cavallaro, school manager of IC Catalfamo and Salvatore Rizzo of Ecosmed, who told us how they are trying to change the city starting from projects in schools and, at an urban level, with the assignment of houses to families in precarious situations with the “Capacity Project”. Another practical example that we touched on was that of Gigliopoli, an association that organizes summer camps for children and welcoming projects, a unique reality that makes inclusion and legality its focal point, with the president of the association, Vincenzo Scaffidi, we talked about ethical and critical consumption, self-production, education and inclusion, many issues that fit perfectly within this vision.

One of Libera’s pillars is that of memory: a living and constant memory made by stories and faces of people that were killed by Mafias and can be an inspiration and an example. There were two moments dedicated to this during the camp: the first in memory of Giorgio Ambrosoli, a lawyer from Milan killed forty years ago, the second was the story of Domenico Nicolò Pandolfo, Head Physician at the reunited hospitals of Reggio Calabria, brutally killed on the 20th March 1993, he only had one fault: he was not able to save the daughter of the boss Cosimo Cordì affected by brain cancer. What increased the emotion of the moment was the fact that this story was told to us by Marco Pandolfo, son of Domenico, that during the week we had known only as a cook and travel companion and gifted us with the story of a good father.

Estate Liberi means all this and much more: it means living with people from all over Italy, with different stories and paths that merge in a week of commitment, study and improvement. It means finding an alternative to the distorted vision that the mafias impose on us, it means finding the beauty where it is complicated to see it, it means digging deep. A both physical and inner journey.

Record seizure – Europe flooded with cocaine


On 2nd August 2019, customs in Hamburg announced that 4,500 kilograms of cocaine had been confiscated in the port of Hamburg. This is the largest quantity of cocaine ever confiscated in Germany. The cocaine would have generated about 1.4 billion euros on the market. The drug, that came from South America, was very pure, and one gram of that would costs around 80 euros on the street.

The substance came in soy containers and was packed in sports bags. These containers often contain spare locks for the containers. Even before the containers “officially” arrive at the port, they are opened by special service providers on behalf of criminals, the sports bags are removed and the containers are secured again with the replacement locks, which are exact duplicates of the original locks, so that the removal of the bags is not traceable. This time, for some reason, the procedure didn’t work out and customs secured this immense amount of cocaine before criminals could get it. The substance is taken after confiscation and burnt under supervision.

This intercepted record delivery shows once again that Europe is experiencing a cocaine glut. Demand remains high, and the existing global anti-drug policy appears to be ineffective. Every day, the cocaine market ensures that billions of euros fall into the hands of criminal organisations. That is why it is important to combat money laundering effectively, because it is not only drugs that have a harmful effect, but also the financial gain that they generate. It is known that billions are being laundered in German real estate. It is good that the measures against this are being stepped up. It is extremely questionable why payment for real estate with cash is still permitted. This is an invitation to gangsters from all over the world to invest in Germany. However, a comprehensive fight against money laundering is needed. It must be ruled out that valuables such as used and new automobiles, watches, works of art and jewellery can be used for this purpose. Complicated mechanisms of money laundering such as trading in participations in companies and investments in protective financial instruments such as closed-end funds and trust constructions must also be brought to the fore.

Another aspect of cocaine glut that is often overlooked is the consumer side. Even top politicians consume the substance. However, social elites do not buy their drugs on the street market, but in structures such as luxury restaurants and other suitable outlets. These contacts between drug traffickers and such consumers do not favour the pursuit of the structures that supply these clients. For this reason, too, politically independent public prosecutors in Germany would be an important step in the fight against organised crime.

Why such an immense business as the one in Hamburg went wrong can only be speculated about now. New players are currently trying to gain a foothold in global trade. It remains to be seen whether this circumstance has anything to do with the recent record seizure. It will also be interesting to find out which backers are being investigated. Because a seizure alone is not very meaningful in the end.

mafianeindanke in the European Parliament


It was almost 12 years ago, when the first mafianeindanke activists in Berlin laid the foundations of our association. The situation back then was very complicated. There had been 6 mafia-members shot in front of a pizzeria in the city of Duisburg. And in Berlin, shortly after, more than 50 restaurant owners got a letter asking for protection money and some got their cars and restaurants set afire in the city. There was a lot to be worried about.
We stood united and, cooperating with the police, we managed to get the criminals arrested.
We were dreaming of waking up Germany.
Today, after 12 years, there are evidence showing that we didn’t make that dream come true (yet). Germany, in fact, scores an unbelievable 7th position in the world Financial Secrecy Index and it is a paradise for money launderers and their dirty capitals.
But our steady commitment brought also encouraging results. Our work was also facilitated by the inputs coming from the EU. For example, 5 years ago, thanks to an international European-funded research project, we organised a conference in Berlin for the promotion of confiscation measures in Europe
(maybe you, dear mister Tinè, might remember it).
Two years ago the new confiscation law – fostered by the EU-Directive – was presented by the German interior minister at another conference we organised – and last year we proudly witnessed a public prosecutor in Berlin fighting for the confiscation of criminal assets – seizing 77 properties and strongly promoting the new law. And she was our guest 5 years ago. You see, working together is key for success.
But what else does civil society need to be more effective in this fight?
Money, of course ?
We need to better know and study the phenomena of organised crime and mafias because we observe a dramatic lack of knowledge and awareness at all levels. In order to improve the production and dissemination of information, we would like to implement a European network of observatories, with the task of monitoring and studying the local and international criminal dynamics. These observatories would the place to develop and exchange new best practices. Criminal phenomena are in continuous transformation, adapting themselves to the evolving societies. Therefore, also the contrasting tools and methods have to be adjusted and new ones have to be conceived. For example, we are currently conducting in Berlin a feasibility analysis for supporting people in the dissociation from their criminal background.
In order to improve the effectiveness, we also need – as underlined by my CHANCE fellows – the harmonisation of the national laws in many areas.
We would like to point out for example the problems related to the lack of international coordination in the protection of witnesses and whistle blowers with a simple story:
in Germany lives an Italian woman, who through family relations got involved in the international traffics of an Italian-mafia network. When she realised that this business would put in danger herself and her kids, she decided to become a witness and spoke with the German police. Her declarations became key accusations in an Italian investigation, which led to one of the main recent operations against Italian mafia in Europe and to the arrest of dozens relevant members of mafia families. Despite this, she was not accepted in the German protection program. From a German point of view, the disclosed information was not sufficiently relevant – as there is no law punishing the belonging to a mafia group in Germany. This illustrative case shows how important is the European homogenisation of the protection programs for witnesses. It would also be essential to create mechanisms for the acquisition and exchange of information coming from witnesses, whistle blowers and informants, who often have a key role in unveiling organised crime and mafia structures.
In conclusion, I must say that I am very proud and thankful for the path we have built together with the CHANCE network. We believe that the variety of problems and the different contributions today highlighted that organised crime and mafias are phenomena affecting society as a whole.
We believe that the engagement of civil society has to play a key role.
It is a European problem, we need a European action and reaction.
I am sure that next time we will meet here we will be more – more people, more organisations, from all over Europe – with more tools and new methods.
Thank you very much.