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.

M100 prize goes to an italian journalist and writer, Roberto Saviano


15 September 2016 M100 Sanssouci Colloquium took place. It is a conference that is held every year starting from 2005 in Potsdam in the Sanssouci Park. The idea of this event is to get together the most influential journalists, commentators, media owners and public key figures in order to discuss the role and the influence of media on the international market as well as to promote democracy and the freedom of speech.

In the end of the evening, the participants took part in the M100 gala. It is also then, when the individuals who have left a mark on the world are being awarded with M100 prize. This year the award went to Roberto Saviano, the author of the famous „Gomorrah” novel. The book has been translated into 51 languages, a movie and TV series have been filmed based on Roberto Saviano’s novel. The author wrote more books on the topic of mafia: „The Ring: & The Opposite of Death”, „Zero Zero Zero. How Cocaine dominates the world” to name but a few.

Expansion of the Russian mafia on the German territory


As reported this month, Russian mafia is gaining power in Germany. Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) estimates that up to 40 000 individuals who live in Germany may be connected to Russian organized crime groups. It should be kept in mind that these numbers come only from reported offenses, which means that, in reality, more men can be involved in the movement.