In memory of Giovanni Falcone

On the 23rd of May 1992 Judge Giovanni Falcone was killed in the Capaci massacre together with his wife Francesca Morvillo and the police escort agents Vito Schifani, Rocco Dicillo and Antonio Montinaro. About 500kg of TNT positioned on the A29 motorway at the junction between Isola delle Femmine and Capaci were blown up when the car passed.

The terrible attack was directed to eliminate one of the best servants of the State, the one who had hit the mafia hard in the framework of the maxiprocess of Palermo, and continued to represent a danger because of his pioneering investigative ability and his tireless determination in contrasting the mafia phenomenon.

In the Judiciary, the responsibilities of Cosa Nostra were confirmed with the convictions of prominent mafia bosses and the material executors of the criminal organization. However, 28 years after that massacre, some unresolved issues still remain. There was, in fact, a broader convergence in the elimination of Giovanni Falcone, first, and of Paolo Borsellino, later. Professor Nando dalla Chiesa called it a two-stage massacre, because there was a link between the massacre of Capaci on 23rd of May 1992 and the massacre of Via d’Amelio on 19th of July of the same year.

The judges had certainly been targeted by Cosa Nostra for some time, given their investigative efforts in the anti-mafia pool that led to the maxiprocess established in 1986 and strongly wanted by the two. On that occasion, also thanks to the statements of the justice collaborator Tommaso Buscetta, it was possible to identify the unitary and vertical structure of Cosa Nostra, which Falcone had already perceived during Rosario Spatola’s trial. Falcone himself, in the book-interview “Cose di Cosa Nostra” realized by Marcelle Padovani, affirmed that Buscetta had succeeded in giving them a fundamental key of the criminal organization code. The maxiprocess ended in first degree on the 16th of December 1987, with an interminable list of convictions: in total, there were 346 convictions – among which, 19 life imprisonment and 2665 years of prison altogether. The accusatory system also held up in second degree, although with some mitigation.

By the time the trial reached the Supreme Court, Giovanni Falcone was part of the Ministry of Justice as Director of Criminal Affairs, with the task of coordinating the fight against organized crime at the national level. Falcone urged the former Minister of Justice, Claudio Martelli, to introduce the rotation of the Court of Cassation chambers in order to avoid contamination. The choice of the judges for the Maxiprocess was made by drawing, to avoid the actions of the president of the first section, Corrado Carnevale, also known as the ”sentence-killer”. In fact, in his career, he ordered the invalidation of numerous mafia sentences thus facilitating the release of mafia criminals.

The trial ended on the 20th Jof anuary 1992 with an unprecedented sentence. All the convictions were confirmed and the attenuations sanctioned on appeal were removed.

The vengeance of Cosa Nostra was expected, but what worried the mafia and their network of relationships was mainly what Falcone and Borsellino could still accomplish.

Falcone’s legacy

Judge Falcone, during his time at the Ministry of Justice, promoted since the beginning of 1991 the creation of structures that today are fundamental in the fight against mafia-type organized crime in Italy and that are internationally envied. Taking advantage of the experience of the anti-mafia pool in Palermo, conceived by Rocco Chinnici and then put into practice by Antonino Caponnetto with the aim of centralizing the investigations on the mafia, Falcone proposed the setting up of the national coordinating centre for investigation and exchange of information related to the mafia phenomenon.
Thus, the National Anti-Mafia Directorate (DNA) was created, with the purpose of horizontal investigative coordination and simplifying the communication between the District Anti-Mafia Directorates (DDA). The Anti-Mafia Investigative Direction (DIA), composed of police forces is a proper operative pole in charge of judicial investigation activities, was added to these bodies.
Falcone’s vision went beyond the national borders. In fact, he was convinced that the fight against the mafia had to be pursued with cooperation at a global level. He was the promoter of an international conference for organizing a multilateral approach in the fight against organized crime. There was a need for adequate legislation to tackle the mafia phenomenon that was now affecting institutions and societies worldwide. Falcone’s idea then became reality with the international conference in Naples in 1994 and the subsequent adoption of the Palermo Convention on transnational organised crime in 2000.
At a national level, however, Falcone’s initiatives as Director of Criminal Affairs were also criticized within the judiciary itself, as there was fear of an excessive centralization of powers which, in reality, never occured. The figure of the National Anti-mafia Prosecutor was introduced and soon Giovanni Falcone became the ideal candidate. This perspective upset many and above all the mafia and the corrupt economical and institutional circles. They would have had to face the most competent judge in the fight against the mafia as the new Super-Prosecutor and this time not only from the offices of Palermo, but on a national scale. This frightened Cosa Nostra, just as it frightened them the fact that after the Capaci massacre, it could have been Paolo Borsellino, Falcone’s ”twin” to hold that position. That is the convergence of interests that led to the elimination of the two judges in the so-called ” two-stage massacre”.
During the period at the Ministry, Falcone had conceived a series of instruments to combat the mafia which included, in addition to the Super Prosecutor’s Office, also: a new regulation on collaborators of justice; the institution of hard prison for mafia bosses – among which the structures of Pianosa and Asinara and the obligation for banks and financial institutions to report suspicious operations concerning money laundering.

We often hear about the ”Falcone Method” to underline his capacity for investigation. In fact, we remember his intuition to ”follow the money”. That means that it’s necessary to follow the financial flows to understand the strategies of economic expansion of the mafia in Italy and beyond the border, through judicial investigations and preventive investigations. Falcone was innovative because he did not remain anchored to the codes, but understood the need to develop another type of competences.

But he went even further. To understand the mafia, it is not sufficient to follow the money. Falcone underlined also that the mafia is a phenomenon of power. The mafia is part of a social system and relies on more or less aware alliances. It controls the territory through the use of violence and carries out illicit activities, feeding this system and reinforcing itself with the money it circulates in the economy.

There were those who claimed already in the 80’s that the mafia should be sought in the circuits of high finance in international centres like London, Zurich and Frankfurt – and Falcone answered that the head was located in Palermo. Because the mafia evolves while remaining itself.

It was Falcone who then introduced the idea of the external collaboration in the Mafia association. The magistrate was deeply convinced that without the connivance of professional figures and without the help of the so-called “small and big singers”, the mafia would not be able to achieve its goals. This concept was also expressed by Professor Nando dalla Chiesa in the book written with Pino Arlacchi “La palude e la città” that ”the strength of the mafia is outside the mafia” (1987). Therefore, he underlined the necessity to focus on external support to the mafia, because that’s what allows it to be victorious.
To counter the mafia phenomenon, it is necessary to study it carefully, and Falcone understood that it was necessary to learn to think and reason like them, to get into their logic of action and analyze their behaviour.

The criticisms and difficulties

Today he is recognized and remembered as one of the highest symbols of the fight against the mafia, but during his life Giovanni Falcone was subject to attacks of all kinds. There was a part of society, press and even the judiciary that criticized him harshly. Among the various epithets that were given to him was that of ”sheriff judge”; he was then, according to the occasion, accused of being a friend of this or that political party; and after the failed attack of the Addaura against him, it was even claimed that he had organized it alone to obtain visibility.

What indirectly struck him was also the controversy that arose from Leonardo Sciascia’s article on the “Antimafia professionals” of ’87, which had as its explicit objective Paolo Borsellino and his designation as Prosecutor of the Republic of Marsala for merit instead of the classic criterion of seniority of service. There was controversy about the fact that ”nothing is worth more, in Sicily, to make a career in the judiciary, than taking part in mafia-type trials”. The detractors of Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino took the chance and felt even more legitimated in their attacks on the two judges.

In that context of envy, calumny and discredit, Giovanni Falcone’s professional career was also affected. When Antonino Caponnetto retired for health reasons, Falcone was seen as his natural successor as head of the Investigation Office in Palermo, but the Superior Council of the Magistracy (CSM) preferred Antonino Meli (14 votes for Meli, 10 for Falcone and 5 abstained), an older colleague but without the slightest experience in mafia trials. The consequence was the progressive dismantling of the anti-mafia pool.

As her friend and colleague Alessandra Camassa and his colleague at the time of the anti-mafia pool Leonardo Guarnotta remember in the documentary “Uomini Soli” in 2012, every time Falcone applied for a position – for which he was obviously the best possible candidate – he was always rejected. He could have been recognized for what he had shown in the fight against the mafia and instead he was never promoted. Immediately after his rejection as head of the Investigation Office, Domenico Sica was preferred as High Commissioner for the fight against the mafia and in 1990 he did not obtain the position of advisor to the CSM. Falcone then decided to go to Rome to the Ministry of Justice to do what he no longer felt he could do in Palermo.

“Their ideas walk on our legs”

At a conference on the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of the maxiprocesso of Palermo, the former magistrate Leonardo Guarnotta claimed that what Falcone and Borsellino left us is ”a heritage rich in teachings, gestures and words, behaviors, memory”. The testimony of their sacrifice and commitment gives us courage. Their lives have been characterized by important victories and burning defeats, but they have not surrendered to difficulties and have always been promoters of change. They were the highest servants of the state and they did it for the sake of legality.

Giovanni Falcone taught us that the mafia must be studied, understood and finally fought. There is a need for professional rigour. You can’t tackle real crime professionals with amateurs. The best and most competent people must fill the positions of responsibility, otherwise this fight will never be won.

Their teachings concern all of us. The legacy they have left us is our cultural heritage.

The EU presents a new action plan against money laundering

On the 7th of May 2020, the European Commission, through the Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis, published a new European Union Action Plan for the prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing in the European Union. This Action Plan establishes measures that the Commission intends to adopt over the next 12 months to better harmonise, enforce, monitor and coordinate EU rules against money laundering and terrorist financing. The aim of the plan is to close existing loopholes in the anti-money laundering system and to eliminate weaknesses in EU rules. In recent years money laundering scandals have shown that the banking industry in the European Union remains extremely vulnerable to cross-border money laundering and that there are major gaps in the supervisory system and its implementation in the Member States. In the case of Danske Bank alone, in which several European banks (including Deutsche Bank) are involved, several billions have been laundered.

The Action Plan consists of six elements:

• More effective implementation of EU rules by the Member States: monitored by the EU Commission (including initiation of infringement proceedings);
• Set of rules: greater harmonisation of money laundering rules to avoid national regulatory inconsistencies (replacement of the money laundering directives by EU regulations);
• Supranational supervision, either by the European Banking Authority (EBA) or a new institution to be created;
• New coordination and support mechanism for national Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) in the European Union;
• Enforcement of criminal law and exchange of information: legal and police cooperation based on EU instruments and institutional arrangements is essential for an adequate exchange of information. According to the EU Money Laundering Directive, the private sector must support the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing. The Commission intends to issue guidelines on the role of public-private partnerships to clarify and improve data exchange;
• Global involvement of the EU: actively participating in and promoting global anti-money laundering measures, through the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
While most elements of the Action Plan, such as the future cooperation of FIUs, are still extremely vague and it is not clear which concrete measures the Commission will take as a result, the Action Plan already contains two specific regulatory proposals that the Commission will recommend to the European Council and the European Parliament next year:

1. The replacement of the EU Money Laundering Directive, which has already been revised five times since 1990, with an EU Regulation. While EU directives must be implemented by individual Member States before they become binding, an EU Regulation has immediate effect and validity. Moreover, a Directive only defines a minimum standard for the obligations regulated. Experience has shown that directives are implemented very differently by each Member States. The Commission prospects that an EU Regulation will lead to greater harmonisation and implementation. However, it should be warned against any great illusions that a regulation alone would be able to close the existing supervisory gap comprehensively. Experience with European financial market regulation in other supervisory areas shows that EU regulations are also “experienced” differently in the Member States and that their compliance is monitored with variable intensity by national supervisory institutions. Only a strong European supervisory institution could carry out “on-the-spot” reviews on the Member States to ensure harmonised implementation. However, EU regulations do have one advantage: the legal acts can enter into force quicker in a one-step procedure. This also allows a faster response to new risks and entry points for money laundering in the financial system throughout Europe.

The most significant proposal of the Action Plan aims at the creation of a European supervisory authority, with direct powers concerning the competent institutions in the EU Member States or additional auditing rights towards obligated institutions and companies, to be exercised independently or together with the national supervisory authorities, where appropriate. Especially in cross-border money laundering cases, the role of the new supervisory authority would have an important coordinating and harmonising function. At present, the Member States alone are responsible for monitoring the application of the relevant EU anti-money laundering provisions at national level, which results in differences in the density and quality of financial supervision. In the Action Plan, the Commission has already proposed two ways to install this supervisory authority: an EU supervisory authority either through the European Banking Authority (EBA) or through the creation of a specific EU authority. These ideas of the Commission have been known for some time. Most member states have reacted cautiously because they do not want to hand over supervisory powers to the EU level. It is to be welcomed that Germany (through the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority – BaFin) has spoken out in favour of creating a new supervisory institution and against the EBA proposal. In our opinion the Paris-based European Banking Authority (EBA) is not up to this new task. So far, the EBA has been primarily a rule-setter rather than a supervisor. In addition to EU legislation, the EBA creates additional and accompanying regulations for banks and not for other obligated parties such as insurance companies, investment firms, commercial enterprises or freelancers. It is also contrary to the principle of separation of powers to bundle norm-setting and executive powers in one body. Incidentally, the EBA has not covered itself in glory in its (yet unresolved) handling of the Danske Bank scandal. The EBA is composed of representatives of the national supervisory authorities. In a dangerously corrupt spirit, this authority has not been able to exert any kind of pressure on the national supervisory authorities, which have criminally failed in this scandal, and to relieve those responsible of their functions.

It must be a requirement that the new authority’s supervisory powers are broadly based and entitled to intervene directly against the institutions and companies that are subject to obligations. Moreover, any new supervisory competence will only have added value if provided with enough qualified staff and if being able to make use of it in ongoing supervisions.

”You have to follow the money”

One of the biggest mafia trials in Germany recently took place in Constance, Baden-Württemberg. In an interview, Senior Public Prosecutor Joachim Speiermann explains the story behind it and why the sentence “Mafia? We’re not interested in that” was frequently heard.

Dr. Speiermann, you recently concluded one of the biggest mafia trials in Germany and hardly anyone noticed. How do you feel about it?

Of course, this is also connected with the fact that we live in Coronavirus times. That’s why the last days of the trials were not so heavily attended. After 100 days of hearing, the interest decreases noticeably.

The presiding judge spoke of a “mafia trial that was not a mafia trial” and he also said that he was not interested in whether someone belonged to the mafia, because under German law that was not relevant. Does this mean that German justice is blind to the mafia issue?

I don’t want to say it so directly, but I was a little surprised by that statement myself. The proceedings began thanks to the Drug Enforcement Administration and the American anti-drug agency, that shared some information with the Italian investigators. We were informed of the facts, because some of the people involved lived in our district. In the course of the investigation, we obtained clear evidence that this case had mafia ties. This was also confirmed during the trial by witnesses’ statements. Of course, in Germany, we cannot determine in detail who is a mafia member and who is not, but such a large drug trafficking can only be fully understood if the persons involved are also investigated. And I was somewhat disappointed that this did not happen – one cannot work only on a purely crime-oriented basis. It makes a difference whether there is a Mafia group involved or not. This should have been made clear by the court. What the President said to the chief investigator was revealing: “Please stay on the surface,” said the judge. It seemed that the judge did not want him to give a detailed report to the court. In addition, during the long main hearing the sentence “Mafia, we are not interested in that” was unfortunately repeated several times.

How do you explain this?

This is generally the tendency of courts. It’s easier to stay on the surface. It’s easier to condemn only those who confess and go deeper only if it is really necessary. This trial was not easy at the beginning, with about 20 defenders, attacking on all sides. But I would have liked to see the relations to Italy highlighted. However, the Chamber preferred to judge only drug transactions that had been carried out in Germany and not crimes committed abroad, such as a planned robbery of a jeweller in Verona, which had been prevented by the investigations.

Unfortunately, not a single policeman from Italy was called as a witness, although investigations were being carried out there.

You said that the people behind these drug deals in Italy were from the mafia. Does it make any difference to you, when you have people with such connections in front of you in court?

Sure, it makes a fundamental difference to the sentencing process. Whether it’s a single offender, spontaneous acts or organised crime. If there are references to the Calabrian ‘ndrangheta or the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, then this is a crucial point.

And what about you personally, since they are no good people at all. The mafia organisations have killed many judges and prosecutors just because they were doing their job.

After the group in Germany had difficulties with sales and the money didn’t come in, we heard a telephone conversation during the trial, where they said one should contact the Cupola in Palermo, the highest power centre of the Cosa Nostra.

But you did not think of people like Giovanni Falcone or Paolo Borsellino, who were murdered because of their fight against the Mafia?

No, I didn’t. I’m certainly aware of these acts and I’m impressed. I know how much the Italians respect these colleagues. Colleagues say that those who fight against mafia in Italy work under very different conditions than in our country, even today.

How did you experience the German police? Sometimes one can hear accusations that they do not want to act against the Mafia.

The opposite is true: the team here was probably the key to success. We had a very good police officer, a chief commissioner who was the contact person for Italian organised crime at the Landeskriminalamt (State Criminal Police Office) and who had incredibly good contacts in Italy. We brought him on board, and he established direct contact with investigators in Palermo. Then I met the responsible public prosecutor. That’s the only way the procedure worked. We then agreed on a direct exchange of information between the police forces at an early stage. This saved us the difficult route via Interpol or the police channel. Of course, the use of these informations then proceeded properly within the framework of mutual legal assistance. There were two procedures, so-called mirror procedures: mine in Germany and that of my colleagues in Italy. The respective findings were exchanged on a daily basis and there was always coordination.

 Does this approach also cause problems?

This procedure can already serve as a model. But it is required to have well motivated people in the team. If there are objections from the start, then it doesn’t work. We have a relatively small police headquarters here, the one in Rottweil, but it has already led some fairly large procedures to success. I do not think that there have been similar proceedings, at least not here in Baden-Württemberg. Basically, such procedures should be located at the LKA. After the investigations were completed, the then head of the Rottweil police headquarters presented the work of his team at the Bundeskriminalamt (Federal Criminal Police Office) in a lecture. They were surprised, and the message was that they could not do that at the BKA. But the BKA itself and the State Office of Criminal Investigation (apart from this one police officer) were never on board. The investigations later expanded to the Stuttgart area and to customers in Münster. These proceedings have been handed over to Münster, which worked out very well. There we already had some final convictions. The proceedings in Stuttgart were taken over some time ago. As far as I know, no charges have been brought so far.

I have read that a total of six million euros has been seized.

We approach proceedings differently in Germany than in Italy. Of course, we are also trying to seize assets in Germany. We have made requests for bank information and everything else, but unfortunately, we have not been able to identify and seize as many assets. This is also an advantage of a a pro of the German-Italian mirror procedure: the Italians then seized six apartments and lands as a preventive seizure.

What does that mean, preventive seizure?

If the defendant cannot explain where the capital invested comes from or the origin is dubious, not comprehensible, then assets can be seized in Italy. If someone pays hardly any taxes and then owns assets, then the Italians are relatively quick with preventive seizure. The accused must then prove the proper origin. If he cannot do this, the assets can be confiscated. That’s what happened also in this case. The underlying idea is that the capital can then be used for further crimes.

And that is not possible under German law?

Yes, this idea is now beginning to take effect in German law. Even if proceedings are dropped or someone is acquitted, seized assets can be confiscated if you are convinced that they have not been legally acquired. Under Article 76a of the German Criminal Code, this is now possible. It is a question of the assessment of evidence, and we have the instrument for this.

What lessons have you learned from these proceedings?

A positive lesson for me, the team and the police is that joint action also works across borders if the right people are involved and if people are motivated. That was the rewarding thing. The long duration of the proceedings is exhausting; there have now been more than 100 days of proceedings, and that raises the question of whether this is justified in terms of costs alone. In conclusion, though, I have to say that all the eleven defendants have been convicted; that makes me happy. The amount of the penalty is at the discretion of the court and has not fully convinced me. But it was a success.

Are we in Germany well positioned to deal with the problem of transnational organised crime?

First and foremost, we need motivated police officers and motivated public prosecutors. That is the most important thing. If you approach proceedings with reservations, you won’t get far. Sometimes you must be a bit brave, try new approaches, and then it works. I don’t have a precise overview of the number of proceedings, but it makes me think when you see how few proceedings are conducted in this area in Germany. Especially because it is always said that there are several hundred mafiosi in Germany. And in our case, we have not even established that they are mafiosi.

How did you motivate your policewomen and police officers? Can the public prosecutor’s office contribute to this?

Of course. But we’ve also had two or three big cases before. We were just lucky to have very, very motivated officers in Rottweil.

How did you experience the defendants in the trial? As men in black suits and sunglasses like in mafia movies?

No! They were more respectful to me than the defence attorneys. One of the defendants was a bit egocentric, but they were normal defendants, as you see them again and again.

Do you think that this trial will be noticed by the other side? I heard there was a convicted mafioso in the audience.

To what extent there is interest, I can’t judge, I don’t know. But I’m sure they will have an interest in the outcome of the trial.

One can assume that they will have an interest in the outcome of the trial. But this war on drugs is not very effective, we are seeing a flood of cocaine in Europe.

I do not think that drugs legalisation is the right answer, simply for health reasons. One can see, particularly among young people, what consequences even soft drugs such as marijuana can have. In some cases, the drug causes terrible psychoses. But I admit to you that there is a lot of drug on the market, it is a fight against windmills.

How could we make this fight more successful?

You must follow the road the Italians followed till now – you must follow the money. That is not happening enough in Germany.  In 2017 some laws were changed; it remains to be seen whether they will be implemented. The tools are there, but we must also use them. And that involves a lot of work. You need motivated prosecutors and it takes a lot of time. And we in the public prosecutor’s office are also measured by statistics. Such an Organised Crime procedure requires a lot of time and personnel. In my trial, for example, the main trial alone involved 100 meetings with two people from my department. Unfortunately, we did not get any additional personnel for the proceedings.  According to the personnel requirement calculation system (Pebb§y), such a procedure costed us 2000 minutes – although it is of course an average value! Many simple procedures such as shoplifting bring more personnel for a public authority and this may explain the relatively few Organised Crime Procedures.

And now everything is over?

We have appealed against the last two rulings and we are waiting for the written reasons. The chamber now has about 6 months to draw up the reasons for the judgement. We will then examine it in terms of appeal, to see whether there are any errors in the sentencing or the assessment of evidence.

Was there any contact between you and the defendants afterwards?

In part I also received positive feedback where I would not have expected it. A defendant from Calabria said goodbye personally. He thanked me for the fairness and told me that if I should take a holiday there, in Calabria, I should visit the family. Which of course I refused. The defendants were more respectful than the defence attorneys. The defence lawyers were more the problem of the trial, it was one of their strategies to wear down the court, which partly succeeded.

If you are talking about the defence lawyers, there was a defence lawyer whose first sentence in the trial could basically be understood as a threat to the witnesses. To sum up, he said: “Anyone who keeps his mouth shut will live to be 100 years old”.

Of course, this can be understood in this way, although I don’t know whether the lawyer understood what he was saying at all. Perhaps he just wanted to show off. Whether this was really a threat, I must leave open. But the fact was that at first there was an absolute silence.

Did you have the feeling that you had enough knowledge about Italian organised crime?

I have learned a lot in this trial, I must honestly say. It was my first big mafia-related narcotics case. No, I went into it relatively recently and only started to deal with it when I made contacts in Italy and the investigation was about the subject.

Do you see a need for action there, for example in political terms? Should prosecutors be trained?

Yes. Especially because of the cross-border aspect of the work. We are now on the way there with the European Public Prosecutor and there is Eurojust as the European coordination body for investigations. But appropriate training and conferences on the subject would certainly be good, and young colleagues should be sent to them. The JIT procedure (Justice Investigation Team) with investigation teams in two or more European countries is an important tool. We have also had two such proceedings in our office. Legal assistance is sometimes very, very formal and time-consuming, which deters many colleagues. They say ”oh, legal assistance is difficult”.  That is the reason why so many colleagues fear the involvement of foreign countries. The JIT simplifies this.

I have noticed in conversations with Italian public prosecutors, that they know much more about criminal structures. Why is that so?

Basically, it is much easier in Germany to arrest a criminal with 5 kilos of drugs than to go into depth and identify structures. Structural investigations take time and we are judged by how many cases we make. That is why few developments like these are made in Germany.

How often did you travel to Italy for this investigation?

I was in Sicily three times. The hospitality of my colleagues there was personally enriching. And after seeing how the Italian policemen work, under what conditions and for how little money, our German policemen noticed for the first time how well they are treated here. Moreover, we learn from each other: the Italian investigators, for example, look much more closely at the profits of criminal business than we do in Germany. In our proceedings, six million euros were seized, most of it in Italy.

What is the special appeal of investigations in the drugs and mafia sector?

You have very direct contact with the police, which brings you closer together. And it’s exciting, even if you can see what’s going on thanks to telecommunications surveillance measures. That’s just very, very interesting.

Do you still have contact to Italy now?

I’m retiring now; four police officers from Italy wanted to come to my retirement party. But because of Coronavirus it didn’t work out. I’m still in contact and once I’m in Sicily, I’ll certainly visit the colleagues.

Do you still watch mafia movies now?

(laughs) Rarely. I don’t even turn on ”Tatort”. That has little to do with reality.


Dr. Joachim Speiermann was born in Rendsburg (Schleswig-Holstein) and is married. He joined the judiciary in 1986 and was a judge in various courts until 2002: the Local Court, the Grand Criminal Chamber and the Court of Aldermen in Constance and Singen. From 1993 to 1996 he was a deputy judge at the University of Constance. In 2002 he joined the Constance Public Prosecutor’s Office, first as head of a general department and from 2014 as deputy head of the authorities and head of the OC and narcotics department.

This article was originally published on Cicero Online – Magazin für politische Kultur

Why ‘ndrangheta is a problem for Germany as well

In 1977 Der Spiegel magazine mocked Italy by putting a plate of spaghetti “seasoned” with a gun on the cover of their 31st issue. Almost 45 years later, the problem of organised crime has become global, but many Germans still pretend not to see. This is how the ‘ndrangheta conquered Germany.

“And remember one thing. The world is divided into two: what is Calabria and what will become Calabria”.

These words, taken from a wiretapping between two ‘ndrangheta members, show the willingness to conquer by the most active and dangerous organised crime group in Europe right now. A slow but unstoppable conquest, which began in the distant post-war period, taking advantage of the legal instruments of exchange of labour between the Federal Republic of Germany and Italy. The ‘ndrangheta has, in fact, started a “peppered” conquest, imposed, at first, by migratory flows and, only later, attracted by economic interests. The mafia expansion in Germany has, therefore, a long history which has its roots in the second half of the Fifties of the last century. Despite this, however, public attention and studies on the phenomenon are much more recent. Italian mafia organisations abroad tend to move with caution, making as little noise as possible and staying away from the prying eyes of the public. This “camouflage” makes the work of those who study the phenomenon rather complex and even more difficult is to make civil society aware of the presence of an organisation which is considered non-existent by many and which is in fact invisible to most people, because it works in darkness and silence, exploiting the lack of preparation of the “hosting” countries.

The fall of the wall: new opportunities for the mafiosi

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 opened another fundamental chapter in the history of the expansion of Italian mafia organisations in Germany, and especially for ‘ndrangheta. This event, with the consequent reunification of East and West Germany, opened a new frontier and new spaces for the conquest of the Italian mafias in Europe. Mafias had a fundamental role in the start-up of business activities in the East of the country, essentially for one reason: they controlled a lot of liquidity obtained with drug trafficking and enterprises started in West Germany. In this framework of expansion, it is possible to notice a first great difference with the first flow that brought the ‘ndranghetisti to the western regions of Germany: the Calabrian association already had a logistic base in the country, had activated its supremacy on the drug traffic thanks to a solid network of outposts and it was ready to invest its money in a untouched area. The casual expansion which had characterised the first part of the ‘ndrangheta conquest was replaced by a more prudent strategy.

Structures and hierarchies: the dictates of the homeland.

“The ‘ndrangheta exists, and has certain characteristics, not because its members respect certain rules, but because those subjects recognize themselves in a mafia system, in which the term ‘ndrangheta becomes a criminal brand known in the world, in which you are not free to do what you want: if you do not behave like a ‘ndrangheta member there is someone who calls you to order”.

Said the Deputy Prosecutor of the Direzione Distrettuale Antimafia (DDA) of Reggio Calabria Giuseppe Lombardo during an anti-mafia conference organized by mafianeindanke in 2017 in collaboration with the Italian Embassy in Berlin. If Cosa Nostra – perhaps the most famous Italian mafia group from Sicily – abroad tends to shape itself according to the area in which it is located and to separate from the region of origin, the ‘ndrangheta does exactly the opposite: families abroad are and always remain a basic part of the family in Calabria. All the movements, investments and actions which are carried out in the foreign country are agreed upon with the motherland and depend on it, as is demonstrated by the feud of San Luca which, generated in Calabria, sees the trail of blood continue also in Germany with the “Massacre of Duisburg”. There are, therefore, two main goals of the ‘ndrangheta in Germany: the first concerns the international traffic of narcotics along the “Atlantic route”, which starts from the countries of South America and then arrives in Europe through the ports of Rotterdam, Antwerp, Amsterdam and Hamburg; the second is the laundering of dirty money through investments principally in restaurants, food distribution and construction sectors. Public Prosecutor Lombardo explains:

“There are some families that have a much greater criminal weight than all the others. Those of the highest rank are the families who decide the strategies: but it would be an error to consider them as the bosses of the ‘ndrangheta. The criminal structure does not depend solely on them, even if it is strongly influenced by them”, continues Lombardo: “the vertical structure that ‘ndrangheta has could make one think that today, the ‘ndrangheta, has a command group, a leader, which determines its existence. It is not that simple. The ‘ndrangheta is provided with a very sophisticated chain of command. There are three main orders, the historical ones, on which also the foreign articulations depend on: the Ionico Order, that of the city of San Luca, the “mamma” (“mum” Tn); the “Tirrenico Order”, the one of the cities of Palmi, Gioia Tauro and Rosarno; the “Centro Order”, the one of the city of Reggio Calabria. Imagine these three areas of Calabria: it is from here that the commands for the joints of ‘ndrangheta in the world start”.

Germany as fertile ground

The ‘ndrangheta is known, more than other mafia organisations, for its hunger for conquest, which took it first to the regions of Northern Italy and then to Germany. It uses the same mechanisms of penetration and the same mentality, not distorting its own character of family organisation which is based on blood ties also outside Calabria.

“The real problem revolves around the knowledge of the phenomenon, the concept of organised crime: we should talk a common language, especially at the European level, but this is not the case. The mafia-type criminal phenomenon in the Italian legal system is extremely evolved and complicated to explain, it is a system which, unfortunately, has refined its strategies through difficult and significant passages linked to massacres, murders, military type attacks which the Italian State has suffered for a long time,” explains PM Lombardo.

In Germany, as it is well known, there is no such thing as the crime for being a mafioso. The ‘ndrangheta has exploited the weaknesses of German legislation, moving undisturbed in the German social and economic fabric. If something does not change quickly, the Calabrian organisation will be able to benefit greatly and expand further. The German legislation also lacks laws regarding the seizure and confiscation of criminal assets: if a mafioso manages to live with the prospect of detention or being on the run, targeting his wealth and power means making him unarmed and this certainly frightens him.

From “Operazione Stige” to JIT Pollino: future scenarios

“It must be clearly stated that mafias are such not only when they commit evident crimes, when they acquire the control of economic activities; mafias are not only those who make unjust profits or advantages. Today, any behaviour that profoundly interferes with the life of each one of us is mafia. The mafia of the Third Millennium is this and is not always recognised by the naked eye. Not everything is mafia, but what is mafia today, all together, in Italy and abroad, we must be able to understand it immediately, without making useless turns of phrase”.

Lombardo’s opinion opens to new considerations: the anti-mafia investigative activity in Europe and Germany is making important steps forward. We must remember above all “Operation Stige” from 2016, which led to the arrest of a large number of people between Italy and Germany, and “Operation Pollino”, which saw for the first time the creation of a “Joint Investigation Team”, between the investigative forces of Italy, Germany and The Netherlands (here’s our article about the matter). There is also the positive example of Berlin that is starting to use the instrument of seizure of assets against the Clan-Kriminalität (here’s our analysis).

Recognizing the mafias, especially for a German, is very difficult. It is a phenomenon that is still surrounded by an aura of mystery dictated by the myth of the “Godfather” and folklore. This phenomenon must be studied in depth and known in Germany as well as throughout Europe: only in this way will we be able to effectively battle organised crime.

“I just wanted to understand what Mafia is”. A conversation with criminologist and criminal law expert Prof. Dr. Frank Neubacher M.A.

Universities and institutes are empty, TVs, newspapers and social media only talk about one topic: COVID-19. The fact that meetings and events are currently limited does not stop a renowned professor at the University of Cologne from talking to his students. This is not the first time that Prof. Dr. Frank Neubacher M.A. has encountered obstacles in the research topic “organised crime”. The holder of the Chair of Criminology and Criminal Law and Director of the Institute of Criminology answered in writing form to the questions raised by mafianeindanke and provided new insights into the challenges he encountered during his research on “Mafia in Germany”.

mafianeindanke: In your essay “Mafia und Kriminologie in Deutschland” (Mafia and criminology in Germany), published in 2014, you write: “I have never understood why German criminology – in contrast to other countries – is so insistently silent on the subject of the Mafia and why it leaves the phenomenon […] to loquacious journalists and secretive detectives”. Has your opinion changed?

Prof. Dr. Frank Neubacher: This is still my opinion, because the situation has not changed. My essay was supposed to be a wake-up call, but it remained unanswered. As a scientist you must practice self-criticism – on the research itself – when such “blind spots” appear. Science simply lacks a very important voice in the public discourse.

MND: Is the search for material on organised crime (OC) and especially on Mafia in Germany successful? Are the authorities, in particular the Bundeskriminalamt (Federal Criminal Police Office), helpful or open to collaborations when it comes to the release of information?

F.N: The authorities give their usual publications, especially the annual report “Organized Crime” of the BKA. This document contains the most important key data on the proceedings the BKA is currently dealing with on an average of 70 pages. Italian OC groups make up only a small part of the material. Moreover, it only deals with those cases that have become known. When talking about Mafia it’s important to discover what lays underneath the surface, hidden from the authorities. Material that the police have prepared for the public – as in the case of the annual reports – is gladly published and it is freely available to everyone on the Internet. Beyond that, however, the BKA is very reticent, especially when it comes to Mafia or, as the office says, “serious organised crime”. They are not willing to open up concerning these topics. That is why it is so difficult to judge how well the police are positioned in the fight against crime. And maybe that’s one reason for their discretion.

MND: Have you ever had a negative experience or – better said – has your research ever stumbled because the flow of information was restricted?

F.N: In 2008, on the first anniversary of the Duisburg Massacre, the press quoted from a secret BKA report that had been “leaked”. Consequently, I asked the president of the BKA access to said document for scientific purposes. I even repeated this request, but in vain. Although parts of the report had already been circulating to the public, the BKA insisted on privacy and, in my opinion, wasted a good opportunity to cooperate with the scientific community.

MND: Is it necessary to demand financial aid from the state for academic work, especially on Mafia in Germany?

F.N: State funding for the promotion of science is in principle a good thing if science itself can decide on the distribution of these funds and thus also on the topics of research. After all, we already have such a system with the “Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft” (German Researchers Foundation DFG). When it comes to the issue of the mafia, however, I do not believe that money is the problem, but – as we say in science – the “access to the field” is the real issue. How do I find direct access to the phenomenon? Are participating observations conceivable? Probably not, because the practical and ethical problems are obvious! And how do I approach interview partners or a subject who’s been interrogated for example about protection against racketing? How can I know the reasons why potential interviewee participate or do not participate? How reliable is such information? And am I possibly putting someone in danger?

MND: As a criminologist, why did you feel that the topic of mafia was important in Germany and why did you decide to deal with it?

F.N: 2007’s Duisburg Massacre was a turning point. After that, the question was there for everyone to see: why aren’t we dealing with the issue? My interest for the topic has its roots in the 90s and it has to do first of all with the fact that I have always felt connected to Italy and simply wanted to understand what mafia is. Before the internet changed all our lives (not for the worse!), I brought books from Italy, whatever I could get. I understood then that I was reporting in Germany about what was going on in Italy. In 2006, for example, I wrote a review of the book “Gomorra” by Roberto Saviano for a German journal, when the book was not yet available in the German translation. The significance and impact of this work was immediately clear to me.

MND: Do you think that people are by nature easily susceptible to Mafia influences?

F.N: This is a difficult question, which, because of my uncertainty and because it exceeds my scientific expertise, I will only answer briefly. Humans are in principle capable of the highest and the lowest. But yes, some are vulnerable because they want to take the easy way – not questioning anything and following an “authority”. Ultimately, corruption starts on a small scale. We can see it in our own behaviour when we agree to break our principles for a small advantage. The worst part is that we convince ourselves it is the right thing to do.

MND: Have you ever been involved with a mafioso or have you ever met one?

F.N: Not that I know of! In 2003 I travelled to Sicily. The Mafia seemed very close to me there, especially in Palermo. On the local radio you could hear, for example in the bar in the morning, news of shootings, arrests, investigations. But at the same time, I knew that the situation must have been worse 10, 20 years before. Besides, the anti-mafia movement was much more visible. And in many situations, I was just a tourist and so taken by the beauty of the island and the people there that I didn’t even think about the Mafia.

MND: You deal with mafia and OC in your lectures. What feedback do you receive from your students? Do they show interest, or do they perceive it as a “foreign problem”?

F.N: The students are very curious and ask a lot of questions, and that is good, because curiosity is the beginning of all kind of science. More than with other topics, however, where students are eager to discuss, they are more reticent to express their opinions on Mafia. My impression is that they feel that their “knowledge” comes mainly from movies about the topic and that this has little to do with the current reality.

MND: Through university involvement, attention can be drawn to the mafia and its methods. How important is this work on raising the awareness at universities? Do you think that it would be necessary in Germany to establish a kind of monitoring centre like the one created by Prof. Nando dalla Chiesa at the University of Milan?

F.N: I think that universities in general are very important. In my opinion, they are of extreme importance for the personal development of students – you can notice that I deliberately did not speak of them only as an educational institution. At the university, everything can and should be talked about – including, but not only, Mafia. A monitoring centre is an attractive idea. Yes, why not? The awareness-raising work could be done there, one could have a wide library on the topic, and the different actors – journalists, scientists, prosecutors – could also be brought together there.

MND: Were or are you alone in the research about Mafia in Germany?

F.N: Please do not overestimate me. I’m not completely alone and I’m mostly involved with organized crime as a side of my job. My main field of work as a scientist is prison research. But as the saying goes, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king”.

MND: How much does academic work influence current political developments?

F.N: When it comes to the topic of Mafia, this influence does not exist because the corresponding academic work does not exist. Otherwise the influence of criminology on crime policy is weak to non-existent. It is a misbelief to think that politics does what science recommends (assuming science agrees at all). In the current Corona crisis, science is being listened to more strongly again. This is encouraging and hopefully belongs to those things that will remain in the post-Corona era.

MND: On a scale from 1 (“not prepared at all”) to 10 (“totally prepared”), how prepared would you classify the legal system in Germany for the Mafia? Is Germany a fertile land for mafiosi?

F.N: One can never be too careful – hence a 7. From the reports of the BKA it can be seen that cases in which organised crime has influenced or tried to influence the police, public administration or the judiciary are rare. A very important issue, not only about Mafia, is the fight against money laundering. But here, as elsewhere, the same applies: laws are not everything, they have to be enforced, and for this a sufficient number of well-trained experts are needed.

MND: If you had all the material at your disposal and if there were no obstacles of any kind, on which essay or book would you start working on?

Actually, I would like to write a book about the Mafia. But it would have to meet scientific criteria and at the same time be interesting and easy to read for a wider public. About 10 years ago I was close to it, but then I stopped working on such a book. I just didn’t feel comfortable with it, because although I surveyed all the literature, I didn’t have my own empirical approach (such as through special data, interviews or file material). Who knows, maybe one day.

MND: Could you recommend to the readers a well-done academic paper on the Mafia in Germany? Do you have a reading recommendation as an introduction to the topic of Mafia in Germany?

F.N: This question embarrasses me. I could name a few books about Italy, but I can’t think of any for Germany. Wouldn’t that be a nice dissertation topic for you?

Berlin Regional Court uses a new tool against Clankriminalität

On 7 April 2020, the Berlin Regional Court ordered the confiscation of two properties in Berlin Neukölln, using a new legal instrument. Section 76a of the German Criminal Code allows the confiscation of assets previously seized as a result of certain crimes – even if the proceedings had to be suspended. Mafianeindanke welcomes this ruling and calls on the judiciary to use this instrument more often and in all areas of financial crime.

The two plots pieces of land in Neukölln concerned were provisionally confiscated in 2018. According to the Regional Court, criminals financed bought these properties with unspecified crimes’ profitsproceeds from unspecified crimes.

In its decision of 7 April, the Regional Court made use of the new instrument of independent confiscation pursuant to Section 76a of the German Criminal Code, which came into force in July 2017 in connection with the law reforming the criminal asset seizure. This provision relates to assets that have been seized on suspicion of a criminal act defined in the legislation under § 76a para. 4 of the Criminal Code and, among other things, allows confiscation even if the criminal proceedings had to be suspended. In this case the defendants were accused of money laundering, but a specific offence could not be proven with the necessary certainty.

Mafianeindanke welcomes this ruling. The fight against organised crime, money laundering and other financial crimes can only be successful if funds and assets are confiscated from the criminals. In this way, the judiciary prevents the perpetrators from investing in further crimes, expanding their economic power or keeping the illegally obtained profits safe from the investigating authorities.

However, Mafianeindanke criticizes that this is an isolated case. An effective fight against organized crime requires that the new instrument in the area of white-collar crimemust be used in all federal states for the area of white-collar crime. This requires well-equipped organisational units at the public prosecutor’s offices which only deal with asset confiscation.

In addition, Mafianeindanke is also critical of the reporting by some media, which reduce this instrument specifically to clan crimeClans of Arab origin. What is important, on the other hand, is to finally use the confiscation of illegally obtained assets in every area of financial crime. Especially against white-collar crime. Since the new norm has been in place, major German law firms, whose clients include white-collar criminals in pinstriped suits, have attacked independent confiscation in specialist forums and publications and called it unconstitutional. This interest-based debate also influences the work of those who apply the law in the judiciary. Lawyers allege a violation of the right to property under Article 14 of the German Constitution. However, it is not commercial law firms and their clients who decide on the unconstitutionality of a norm, but the Federal Constitutional Court, which has so far had no reason to make such a decision. Assets which, according to judicial conviction, can only come from illegal sources are of course not protected by the Basic Law.

Information for the press


Sandro Mattioli, First Chairman

+49-157 31 79 78 21

Mafianeindanke is a registered non-profit association in which volunteer activists work against the penetration of organized crime into our economy and society, thus working for an open, democratic society with fair opportunities for all.

Anti-money laundering measures: Swiss banks look the other way

Like their counterparts in the European Union, Swiss banks are very often involved in money laundering schemes. Here are some recent examples. In February 2019, a court in Paris sentenced Switzerland’s largest bank, UBS, to pay a record fine of €3.7 billion and 800 million in compensation for money laundering and tax fraud in favour of French clients. However, most of these events have an international context and are directly related to corruption. The scandal of the Malaysian state fund 1MDB involved, among others, UBS, the private bank BSI, Falcon Private Bank and the private bank Coutts. 7.5 billion dollars were hijacked from this fund. In addition, the Swiss banks were involved in the corruption cases of the energy multinational Petrobras and the building consortium Odebrecht, both Brazilian companies. Here, too, there is evidence of corrupt and hijacked, funds amounting to billions. Credit Suisse, the second largest bank in Switzerland, has caused a stir because it was involved in the corruption case around FIFA.

What makes the Swiss financial market so vulnerable to money laundering?

The reason for this vulnerability lies in the specific business model of Swiss banks, which establish themselves in the world of international competition as the crossroads of private asset management. There are various reasons why clients around the world choose Switzerland as their investment country. Swiss banking secrecy is certainly a factor, although it has become more permeable. Switzerland has had to accept the exchange of tax information in accordance with OECD standards.

Private banking for wealthy clients and wealth management, which concerns the management of private assets, are still an important asset on the Swiss financial market. We are talking specifically about the overall financial protection of private individuals and their assets. In Switzerland, banks and asset managers manage a total of 3.7 billion Swiss francs. Sixty-two percent of them are not domiciled abroad. The Swiss financial market occupies between 1/4 and 1/3 of the global market. Asset management is therefore one of Switzerland’s most important export services. Private assets that are managed across borders have increased by 300 billion Swiss francs from 2013 to 2018.

The administration of private assets has an extensive personnel infrastructure. Not only Swiss banks but also fiduciaries and lawyers are part of this network. It is obvious that these financial services also attract criminals. The funds that are generated illegally run several times between figureheads and offshore companies. In the final phase of money laundering – the investment phase – these funds are then channelled into financial products and the real economy.

In this way wealth management is a gateway to financial crime and the black economy.

The business model of private wealth management has changed in the second decade of this century.

One of the main activities of most Swiss banks had so far been the protection of foreign clients. The main beneficiaries were US and European clients, especially German clients, who used branches and subsidiaries as intermediaries. The assets of these clients often consisted of black funds. In Germany, among other things, the Minister of Finance of North Rhine-Westphalia bought the so-called Steuersünder Cd’s, CDs containing the stolen data on customers of banks engaged in tax evasion. After obtaining this data, many tax fraud proceedings were initiated against clients in Germany and Swiss banks. Thus, clients with illicit funds in bank accounts in Switzerland considered it appropriate to voluntarily report themselves in order to obtain a reduction in penalties.

In addition, Switzerland lost in a tax dispute with the United States that broke out in 2008. As a result, at the beginning of 2009, the US tax authority IRS announced a remission programme. In order to legalise their funds and avoid criminal prosecution, the US tax evaders had to appoint banks and consultants to help them channel their money to the tax authorities. Employees of Swiss banks in the United States were arrested and sentenced to prison. The “business model” of the Swiss banks failed. As a result, business with American and European clients across borders had to be drastically restricted. In the eyes of international public opinion, Switzerland played as the repentant sinner who would in future follow a “clean money strategy” (“Weißgeldstrategie”) to regain its lost reputation. Switzerland would therefore only accept investments whose legal origins were controlled by the banks and considering the national tax law that clients must comply with in order to ensure the absence of danger.

A clean money strategy is another thing

In reality, the Swiss banks did not abandon the old business model entirely but changed it. Instead, they strengthened their focus on the super-rich in emerging markets, which are usually controlled by more permissive financial market, tax and investigating authorities. In the markets of Asia and South America, many funds of dubious clients were received by Swiss banks’ financial managers on the spot. In this way, money received by Swiss banks and thus laundered no longer had to be transferred to Swiss bank accounts and deposits but could be placed in third countries.

The “High Performers” among the consultants were cashing in huge bonuses in this new, immensely profitable business sector. In addition, when business relations were established, hardly any controls were carried out on new clients and their assets by the boards of directors of Swiss banks and their internal AML compliance officers. While the internal requirements with respect to customer care had to be carried out more and more carefully by bank employees, and the number of suspicions reported by Swiss banks – as was also the case at EU banks – increased significantly, the ”top players” in consulting were free to recruit new clients. In fact, there were very few suspicious cases reported to government institutions for this type of clientele. Subsequently, the Swiss tax authority FINMA defined stricter requirements regarding “know your customer policy” – especially in the case of the private bank Julius Bär.

However, using double standards is not just a Swiss problem. Similar deficits have also been noted at EU banks. Which profit-oriented bank reports to the tax authorities its best clients who generate high earnings? Even if this approach runs the risk that, once it is clear, the bank will face huge reputational problems and must expect operational risks on its balance sheet. In this perspective, divorce from the “good client” will be more the exception than the rule.

A comprehensive whistleblowing system must support the reporting of suspects

In the opinion of mafianeindanke, an effective anti-money laundering strategy must start by rethinking the current approach which has become standard in Europe and globally.

It makes sense, of course, that the supervisory authorities continue to require strict compliance with the obligation to report suspicions and customer care obligations on behalf of banks and other obligated parties. However, the examination mechanisms of the tax authorities – even if the number of evidences on the ground were to increase significantly – do not fully detect serious money laundering cases. Banks may run the risk of failing to comply with the Money Laundering Act because in most cases they escape the controls of the supervisory and investigative authorities.

More control could be achieved by complementing the existing suspicion reporting mechanism with a functioning Whistleblower system. Whistleblowers are people who report or report violations of the law or other misconduct. There are social and economic areas where whistleblowers are indispensable. For example, in the areas of money laundering and corruption. The creation of whistleblower systems is part of the obligations of the supervisory authorities in the German Money Laundering Act. In practice, however, these obligations are only symbolic if formulated in general terms.  So far, these systems are not operational. They do not effectively protect the whistleblower when he addresses the outside world. It is therefore not surprising that many employees of banks and other companies who want to report irregularities prefer to remain anonymous or even keep their knowledge to themselves.

The situation in Switzerland is even more unsatisfactory. So far, the Federal Council (Bundesrat) has rejected any initiative for legal regulation in this area.  Whistleblowers are therefore at risk of being fired and subject not only to social condemnation but also to prosecution.

In October 2019, the European Union issued a directive to protect persons who report violations of existing European laws in their profession. German legislation must implement this directive within two years. Civil society should take an interest in this issue from the beginning.

Mafianeindanke will certainly do so.

Swiss parliament stops the adaptation of the Anti-Money Laundering Act to international standards

On 2 March this year, the National Council, the so-called Grand House of the Swiss Parliament, prevented the introduction of new anti-money laundering legislation, which the Swiss government (Federal Council) had already proposed on 1 June 2018. So far, the international media have not paid much attention to this vote. The amendments to the AML Law should, among other things, include an extension of the due diligence obligations for lawyers, notaries and other advisory professions such as trustees or tax advisors. Currently, only banks and financial service providers are covered by the AML Law. Exceptionally, this includes lawyers to the extent that they provide financial services in individual cases.

In the future, the law should also apply to mere advisory activities, such as those offered to companies abroad, to shell companies existing in Switzerland or to trusts or services such as the establishment, management or administration of these companies. Such an expansion of the circle of obligated persons in the anti-money laundering regime is in line with the current standard of the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF) set up by the G7 countries, of which Switzerland is a member. The FATF’s petition has already been implemented in the EU states with the Fourth EU Money Laundering Directive of 5 June 2015. The scandals uncovered by international research networks demonstrating the use of offshore shell companies for money laundering purposes, including tax evasion, “Panama Papers” had led to this extension of standards. As a member of the FATF, Switzerland is committed to implementing this standard in national law.

The decision was taken in the National Council by 107 votes to 89. Except for a few dissidents, the right-wing factions of the SVP (Swiss People’s Party), the Liberal FDP and the CVP (Christian Democratic People’s Party) voted against a stricter law on money laundering. Supporters of an alliance between the SP (Social Democratic Party), the Greens and the Liberal Greens could not prevail.

In the next phase, the Council of Cantonal States (the so-called Small Chamber of Parliament) decides on the bill. If the Council does not want to reopen the debate, which is currently foreseeable, the bill is completely sunk.

In the course of the debate, the Swiss Social Democrats and the Greens stressed that the revelations about the Panama papers clearly demonstrate the need for action in Switzerland to fill this legal gap. The papers revealed that Swiss lawyers and other consultants were involved on a large scale in the creation of problematic domiciliary companies (shell companies) in Panama. In fact, thousands of domiciliary companies were acquired and created by Swiss lawyers and private banks through the mediation of the Mossack Fonseca law firm in Panama. A combination of shell companies based in offshore countries, managed by fictitious trustees who receive instructions from lawyers and trustees in Switzerland (and other financial centres), was often identified. Swiss lawyers and trustees are thus the logistical link between the offshore countries and the investment country Switzerland.

The “Luanda Leaks”, also discovered in January 2020 by an international consortium of investigative journalists, show a network that worked in a similar way. The daughter of former Angolan President dos Santos. Isabel dos Santos, had built a network of 400 companies in 41 countries to systematically appropriate billions in public funds. International banks, lawyers and other consulting firms provided support and closed both eyes. Isabel dos Santos and the entire family clan were able to enrich themselves unscrupulously for years at the expense of the state and the population. Swiss intermediaries helped to ensure that some of this looted money ended up in Switzerland.

Discourse of the legislative initiative opponents: A revival of the EU debate

The influence of lawyers and advisory professions in the Swiss Parliament is particularly strong. In this case, Switzerland does not differ significantly from the German parliamentary system. Under the leadership of the lawyer lobby, the blockade of opponents of the initiative highlighted the considerable additional work required to manage the mandate, to clarify the type of client and possible beneficiaries, and warned above all against the “erosion of lawyer-client privilege” and the role of the lawyer in the administration of justice. The parliamentary majority thus made use of the argument, already deadly in Europe and especially in the German debate, about the lawyer’s obligations in the area of money laundering, according to which the Money Laundering Act would foster a climate of mistrust between lawyer and client. In the end, according to them, this would lead to a “totalitarian state”.The members of the parliamentary group of the UDC in Zug supported their rejection by using historical parallels. They quoted from the book by Berlin historian Jörg Baberowski “Scorched earth – The realm of Stalin’s violence”: “Under Stalin, the members of the Central Committee began to brand the fellow party members as traitors against their own common sense, so that they would not be suspected themselves.

In this ideological fog, the spokeswoman for the UDC in the Federal Council, Barbara Steinemann, was clearer about the ultimate goal of “no”: Switzerland must maintain the competitiveness of its financial centre at all costs. This is precisely what they fear. Without the network of lawyers and trustees linked to Swiss banks, the specific Swiss banking system with its globally leading product lines in private banking and asset management would be less attractive to clients. It would also be less attractive to criminals in the ranks of attorneys and clients.

The position of the Swiss government

The most characteristic point of the debate is that the Finance Minister Ueli Maurer, who was responsible for the legislative initiative, did not deviate from the position of the no-sayers. He is a leading member of the SVP and deviates from the position of his party comrades only on tactical issues. From the very beginning, he stressed that failure to implement the FATF standards would have caused a worldwide reputation problem for the entire Swiss financial centre. Switzerland would enter into an open confrontation with international bodies for no reason whatsoever. The FATF regularly checks whether the laws of its member states comply with its recommendations. Switzerland’s next revision is scheduled for 2021. Maurer’s arguments were actively supported by the Swiss banking and insurance lobby, which also supported the legislative initiative.
In vain, the Finance Minister said that ”soup is not eaten as hot as it is cooked”. After all, the decisive factor is the actual implementation of a legal provision and not the way it is placed in the showcase of a federal law or an official gazette. He emphasized that the lawyer-client privilege will be preserved even with the revision of the law. Lawyers are obliged to report only if this does not violate attorney-client privilege, he said. And this offers a solid fortress in Switzerland that prevents the emergence of reporting obligations.

Does Germany differ positively from Swiss legal practice?

There is no reason for Germany to point the finger at the sinner Switzerland in this debate. Although the Federal Government – as part of the implementation of the Fifth Money Laundering Directive – has ensured by the end of 2019 that lawyers and other liberal professions, such as notaries, comply with their obligation to report suspicions, so far these annual reports of suspicions by the liberal professions do not exceed a single figure. In addition, the federal government’s announcement has not led to any significant results in reducing money laundering and monitoring the implementation of this law by the liberal professions. As in Switzerland, the liberal professions are not yet obliged to report when the facts relate to information received in the course of legal advice or legal representation. This should only apply if the obligated party knows that the contracting party has used legal advice or legal representation for the purpose of money laundering, terrorist financing or other offences. The German Lawyers’ Lobby can live well with this provision, as it offers enough flexibility on the subjective side of secure knowledge.

Covid-19 and Mafia: How two viruses strengthen each other

Closed borders are bad for smuggling goods and empty streets make drug trafficking more difficult – has the virus even weakened mafia clan? While according to an article in the Tagesschau, the Association of German Criminal Investigators assumes that more intensive controls at the time of COVID-19 will have a positive effect on the fight against organised crime, the Antimafia Commission of the Italian Parliament disagrees. The Commission is a permanent institution of the Parliament and the spokesman of its President recently told the NGO “Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime” (GI-TOC) that: “The mafia is like the Coronavirus – it will get you no matter where you are”. So, what do we have to prepare for?

The current health crisis has few precedents in history and threatens to be a great chance for organised crime. In an interview with the Italian newspaper “La Repubblica”, Francesco Messina, head of crime prevention, warns against mafia infiltration in a weakened economic system: “The effects of the current health crisis could expose entrepreneurs and shopkeepers in various sectors to increased attempts of economic recruitment and illegal financing. The abundance of money that mafia groups have thanks to drug trafficking and the increasing financial difficulties of the companies will encourage exploitation and the takeover of entire businesses”. Francesco Messina confirms that the mafia has already begun to offer its “help” in the hospitality industry, among others. In addition, the risk of corruption increases when state officials suddenly have to manage vast amounts of public and European funds. Special care must be taken when awarding public contracts it’s a fact, well known in Italy not only after the experiences of reconstruction projects after earthquakes.

Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that a crisis of this magnitude hits Mafiosi just as hard as it hits us. As Professor Federico Varese points out: “We should not think of Mafiosi as super-humans, they live in the same world as us, and if our lives are endangered, so are theirs”. Organised crime has, however, already proved enviable resilience in the past, for example during the 2008 financial crisis: “They accept they are going to lose a bit of business from this and they are waiting for better times”, General Giuseppe Governale, head of Italy’s anti-mafia police (DIA), told the German Press Agency at the end of March. An old Sicilian proverb describes the current situation perfectly: “Calati junco, ca passa la china” (Bend down, cane, until the flooding is over).

The internationally renowned mafia expert and author Roberto Saviano went one step further and pointed out that criminal organizations can exploit any form of crisis for their own profit. In an article in “La Repubblica” Saviano describes why the pandemic could benefit the mafia: “When you’re hungry you look for bread and you don’t ask from which oven it comes or who gives it to you; when you need a medicine you buy it and you don’t ask yourself who the seller is. Only in times of peace and prosperity you do have a choice”. According to Francesco Messina, the health infrastructure, the agri-food sector and small and medium-sized enterprises in tourism and catering are particularly at risk of being infiltrated.

The Italian authorities are observing illegal trade in respiratory masks that are exported to Turkey, Russia, Kazakhstan or India and then re-imported into Italy – as the prices of protective equipment rise, this business is particularly lucrative. In Rome and Milan, counterfeit masks have already been seized by the police. The lack of goods is opening new markets and fields of action especially where organised crime has infiltrated the state healthcare, which is already the case in both Northern and Southern Italy, including Lombardy.

The Corona-crisis offers wide scope for fraudulent activities, and not only in Italy: Interpol reports on two-thousand websites worldwide, where doubtful products are sold, for example a miraculous “Corona spray”. Meanwhile, Europol warns of a worldwide increase in cybercrime: among other things, unsafe emails are circulating in which cybercriminals act as the World Health Organization (WHO) in order to spread malwares and to access personal data. The Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) also reports that the emergency in Switzerland is being exploited by false doctors, usurers and cybercriminals, so that the investigating authorities have stepped up their efforts. In the favelas of Rio, on the other hand, organised crime is presenting itself as a better state that provides security and order in the crisis, thus gaining new social legitimacy. The ways and means of profiting from the crisis seem endless. Nicola Gratteri, leading anti-Ndrangheta investigator and chief prosecutor in Catanzaro, also expressed concern to the DPA about interruptions in proceedings against the Mafia; hearings are currently not taking place.

But beyond the health crisis, Mafia’s everyday business is currently on-going: in the ports of Southern Italy an increase in traffic volume has been registered. Movement of goods it’s still possible and border controls are becoming less strict than before. In the German newspaper “Neues Deutschland”, Wolf H. Wagner writes that more drugs are currently entering the country than usual through the South American and African routes. Nor is the consumption of drugs decreasing just because we are locked up within our own four walls: boredom and loneliness can increase the desire to consume illegal substances, also to counteract mental illnesses such as depression. Anti-Mafia prosecutor Federico Cafiero de Raho confirmed to the newspaper La Repubblica: “When the drug distribution centres are closed, drugs are delivered directly to your home”.

What these analysis show, is that we have to consider the Mafia as a virus that can infiltrate every political and societal space. Even if the social order changes and the exception becomes the new norm, crime adapts to maximise its own profits.

© mafianeindanke, 02 April 2020

The memory of the mafia victims does not vanish: March 21st on social media

The “Day of Remembrance and Commitment for the innocent victims of the Mafia” is celebrated in Italy every year on 21 March. This year, due to the global health crisis caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) the commemoration is postponed until October. Nevertheless, the largest Italian anti-Mafia organisation Libera has launched a commemoration campaign on the social media in which numerous individuals and organisations nationwide have participated. All of us in mafianeindanke have joined the commemoration by sharing our photos with in it the names of the victims and flowers we dedicated to them.

But our commitment does not end there. We have reconstructed, deepened and disseminated the stories of the victims, sometimes unknown to most, to keep the memory of them alive. Here you can read the stories of Annalise Borth, Ciro Rossetti, Silvia Ruotolo and Luigi Fanelli.

But first we would like to tell you about the origin of the important initiative of March 21st.

On 23 May 1993 the first commemoration of the victims of the Capaci attack was held. A woman named Carmela, approached the prominent Mafia opponent, Don Luigi Ciotti, and said to him throuhg tears: “I am the mother of Antonio Montinaro, head of the escort service for Giovanni Falcone. Why do you never mention the name of my son? He died like the others.” Until that time, the police unit that provided Falcone with personal protection, which included Antonio and his colleagues Vito Schifani and Rocco Dicillo, was always superficially passed over as “the guys from police protection”. The initiative was thus born out of the pain of a mother who defended the right to have the memory of her son kept alive by mentioning his name.

Thus, the Day of Remembrance of the innocent victims of the Mafia was born with the idea and obligation to grant every victim the same right to be remembered.

The stories of the victims

Annalise Borth

Ferentino, 26 September 1970

Annalise Borth was an 18-year-old German girl, married to Gianni Aricò and pregnant. Originally from Hamburg, she experienced a troubled adolescence and moved to Italy when she was still very young.

“Muki” was her nickname and she was a member of the anarchist group “Anarchici della Baracca”. This group consisted of political activists from the Reggio Calabria area, whose name refers to an abandoned hut where the group had established its operational base. These were the years of the bombing of Piazza Fontana in Milan and the Reggio uprising, the resistance against the government’s decision to make Catanzaro, and not Reggio, the regional capital of Calabria.

On the evening of 26 September 1970, Annalise and Gianni Aricò were in their Mini Morris, together with three other friends: Franco Scordo, Luigi Lo Celso and Angelo Calise, all between 18 and 26 years old. They were on their way to Rome, where a demonstration was planned on the visit of the then US President Nixon. The young people wanted to hand over a dossier with explosive information to the lawyer Edoardo Di Giovanni in Rome. They had collected documents proving links between the ‘Ndrangheta and neo-fascist groups, especially in relation to the Reggio uprising and the attack on the “Freccia del Sud” train near Gioia Tauro.

At the height of Ferentino their car collided with a truck for the transport of canned tomatoes, the rear-end collision was probably provoked. All passengers died. Annalise was the last to die, after 21 days of fighting for her life in the hospital.

The documents transported in the car disappeared without a trace. The drivers of the truck, who survived the accident unharmed, were employees of a company that can be traced back to the “black prince” Junio Valerio Borghese.

It was not until more than 20 years later, in 1993, that there were new findings concerning the events of the Reggio Uprising and the bombing of the “Freccia del Sud” train, in which six people died and 54 were injured. The statements of some “pentiti” (penitent former mafia members) revealed that the ‘ndrangheta provided the explosives to the neo-fascist groups. In addition, a man who cooperated with the judiciary confessed to the cooperation between organised crime and terrorist, extreme right-wing groups in the case of the ‘Reggio Uprising’.

But for the “Anarchici della Baracca” there is no justice until today.

Ciro Rossetti

Naples, 11 October 1980

Ciro was a 31-year-old factory worker.

On 11 October 1980 he was at his mother’s house to watch the World Cup qualifying match Italy-Luxembourg with his wife and two children. Suddenly he heard shots in the street. He assumed that they were fireworks to celebrate Italy’s victory in the football match. Therefore, he went to the window immediately. From the window he saw a car from which a man fired four shots. One of those bullets killed him.

This man had nothing to do with organized crime and just wanted to shout out a shout of joy from his window.

Silvia Ruotolo

Naples, 11 June 1997

Silvia Ruotolo loved her city of Naples, she loved her neighbourhood Vomero and above all she loved her family. She was a cheerful and helpful woman with an unmistakable smile.

After completing her Master’s degree she met Lorenzo Clemente, whom she married. In 1987 she became pregnant and was expecting her first daughter, Alessandra, to whom she was a caring mother from then on. Five years later she carried another child in her womb: she was now trying to find a bigger house while waiting for little Francesco to arrive. So, she moved to the 9th floor of a house at Salita Arenella 13 / A, in a spacious apartment with a wonderful view of her city.

On 11 June 1997, at the age of 39, Silvia held her little son Francesco by the hand. Francesco was then 5 years old. She had just picked him up from the kindergarten and was walking towards the Salita Arenella, almost home. On the balcony ten-year-old Alessandra was waiting for her.

Suddenly two men got out of a car and started shooting wildly. Silvia was hit in the head by one of the 40 bullets and died. However, their target was not her, but two members of the Cimmino clan, Salvatore R., who was also killed, and Luigi F., who was injured together with a university student, Riccardo Valle.

The case was not closed until 2011: The Court of Appeal gave a life sentence to Mario C., the last of the defendants whose trial was still pending. Four other sentences also became final, including a life sentence for Vomero boss Giovanni A., the mastermind behind the cruel and violent action that led to Silvia’s tragic death.

Luigi Fanelli 

Bari, 26 September 1997

Luigi Fanelli was a sincere and cheerful boy who aspired to a military career. He was recruited at the Briscese Barracks in Bari. When he was only 19 years, on a day off, he left the house at 9 pm and told his parents that he would return home late that evening. He met some friends in a public square. After a while he went with his friend Luca to the wine bar “Ridemus”. There he met his ex-girlfriend Fausta B.. After a heated argument Fausta left the bar.

Luigi spent some time at Ridemus, while Paolo M. and Francesco S., Fausta’s ex-boyfriend, were also there. Francesco and his friends later claimed that towards the end of the evening they saw Luigi leaving the restaurant and driving away on a black scooter accompanied by an unknown person.

From then on, all traces of the whereabouts of Luigi Fanelli are lost. He did not disappear voluntarily. The Bari prosecutor’s office assumes that Fausta resented the argument. She probably called two clan members of Cosola’s clan and asked them to give Luigi a “lesson”. The two went to the bar. There they could convince him to follow them. His body has not been found until today.

Paolo M., nephew of mob boss Antonio di C., decided to cooperate with the justice in October 2015. He confessed to killing Luigi Fanelli with a pistol. A murder for which Paolo M. never paid, since in this case he had already been acquitted.

© mafianeindanke, 29 March 2020