European Union – Money Laundering Paradise

The Fifth EU Money Laundering Directive (Directive (EU) 2018/843 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2018 amending Directive (EU) 2015/849 on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purpose of money laundering and terrorist financing and amending Directives 2009/138/EC and 2013/36/EU) had to be implemented by the member states by 10 January 2020. Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia and Cyprus did not transpose this directive at all within the deadline; other EU states transposed it only partially. Italy, Germany, Finland, Latvia and Bulgaria are the only EU countries that have fully implemented this directive according to the European Commission. The German Implementation Act came into force on 1 January 2020. However, the question of whether the transposition laws of these five countries also comply with the content of the Directive in substance and in full needs to be examined separately.

The failure of the defaulting member states to meet the implementation deadlines shows how little importance the executive and legislative bodies of the individual EU member states attach to effective money laundering prevention and a harmonised legal framework for the prevention of money laundering in all sectors of the European Union’s economy, despite all assurances and rhetoric.

The European Commission itself is partly responsible for this desolate situation. In the four previous directives on the prevention of money laundering, it had already failed to consistently sanction non-compliance with the transposition deadlines or materially inadequate implementation in national transposition laws. The Commission would have the instruments for this by initiating infringement proceedings. The Commission can initiate formal infringement proceedings if an EU country fails to notify the measures to fully transpose a directive or fails to remedy an alleged infringement of EU law. The procedure consists of several steps – at a certain stage of the procedure, involving the European Court of Justice – laid down in the EU treaties, each of which ends with a formal decision. In cases where the Commission refers the matter to the European Court of Justice for the second time, it can propose the imposition of very severe financial sanctions in the form of a lump sum and/or a daily amount to be paid.

At present, 17 infringement proceedings are still pending for inadequate implementation of the Fourth EU Money Laundering Directive by individual member states. This Directive should have been implemented as early as 2017. The European Commission is not in a position to conduct these proceedings independently due to the desolate staffing situation in the Commission’s working units responsible for money laundering prevention. It has “outsourced” the examinations relevant to the proceedings to the Council of Europe; the pending proceedings for suspected violations of the Third Money Laundering Directive were completely discontinued due to this personnel situation. As a result, the European Commission is mutating into a paper tiger in the fight against money laundering, which the member states have no reason to fear.

It is quite clear that the letter of the implementing law and its compliance with the requirements of the respective directive alone does not say anything about how effective the respective anti-money laundering measures are in the individual EU member states and how the implementing laws are actually lived in the individual EU states. There is a deep gap between the claim formulated in the directive or the individual implementation law and the legal reality in the individual EU states. There is enough evidence of implementation deficits in the member states Denmark, the Baltic States, the Netherlands, Malta and Cyprus. Germany, too, is an eloquent negative example. Although Germany is one of the model countries in the formal implementation of the EU money laundering directives, the actual implementation in the federal system is a farce, not least due to a lack of personnel in the state authorities responsible for the non-financial sector and the lack of political will on the part of the state governments. In some cases, years after the legal requirements came into force, the Länder have made no attempt to start implementation in individual supervisory areas. For example, the regulations on the supervision of notaries in terms of money laundering law are being negated by the presidents of the regional courts in the federal states.

Conversely, however, this does not mean that the harmonised legal framework for the prevention of money laundering in the European Union intended by the Directive is irrelevant.

On the contrary, a fragmented regulatory and supervisory framework in the field of money laundering prevention is poison for effective supervision in cross-border situations. Money laundering cases of relevance such as the Danske Bank case, with a volume of EUR 200 billion, usually have such a cross-border background. Without a harmonised legal framework, there can be no smooth exchange of information and no effective coordination of the competent authorities in the European Union. Also, in order to preserve the integrity of the EU internal market, there is a need for harmonised, concerted action by the supervisory institutions in the EU Member States with regard to third countries with a high risk of money laundering.

What can be done?

These problems will continue in the future when it comes to regulation in the area of money laundering prevention, unless the European Commission finally decides on an alternative regulatory route. The 6th EU Money Laundering Directive of 12.11.2018, which is to be implemented by the EU states by 3. 12.2020, has still been adopted according to the old harmonisation pattern, namely the creation of minimum standards in the form of a directive and their implementation by national implementing acts. EU law does not prevent the Commission from choosing the path of full harmonisation by adopting an EU regulation in future. In agreement with the Council and the European Parliament, the Commission is increasingly adopting this approach to financial market regulation. There is no good reason why this should not be done in the same way for the prevention of money laundering. Legislative procedures could thus be considerably accelerated in order to be able to react immediately to identified risks. Once the regulation has been adopted, the content of the regulation would also become legally binding immediately; fragmented implementation laws in the member states would no longer be necessary. 

“The war between Montenegrin clans does not stop”. The case of Igor K. shakes German public opinion

The war between Montenegrin clans is once again attracting public attention in Germany. Igor K., a 35-year-old Montenegrin criminal, was seriously injured after an attack on him near Podgorica (MNE) at the end of January. He was then transferred to the Medizinische Hochschule in Hanover (MHH) on February 7. The attack took place as part of the clash between Škaljarski and Kavački clan, which we had already examined last May following the violent killing of two members of the Škaljarski clan in Forst (Brandenburg).  The news of Igor K.’s admission to Germany appeared in the media a few days late and immediately caused controversy.

The reconstruction of the facts

On January 28, after being hit by a hail of bullets while in his car, Igor K., He is urgently transported to the local hospital where he is admitted with seven gunshot wounds. In order to obtain better treatment, he was then transferred to Hanover, where his presence mobilized a large numeber of policemen (around 250) to ensure h24 patient safety, as well as the safety of hospital staff and MHH patients.

The close surveillance of the Montenegrin criminal has alerted German public opinion. The taxpayers’ association (Steuerzahlerbund) protested about the deployment of security forces in large numbers, claiming that the cost should be charged to the private patient and his family. The Hannover police said that such precautions and security measures were necessary for this type of case. The Minister of the Interior of Lower Saxony Boris Pistorius (SPD) made it clear that the arrival of Igor K. was neither wanted nor requested by anyone, but since a patient was found to be in a serious condition the treatment and the security measures had to be provided for everyone’s safety. The Ministry of Science and Culture of Lower Saxony also explained that the patient arrived at the clinic as an urgent case and that the MHH doctors could not refuse to help. Dirk Toepffer of the CDU, as reported by the BILD, claims that the admission of Igor K. was an irresponsible and dangerous act, which caused financial damage to taxpayers as well as to the image and credibility of the country.  Representatives of other political parties also joined the chorus. Among others, Marco Genthe of the FPD stressed that is necessary to make clear whether the stay at the Medizinische Hochschule in Hanover was paid in laundered money.  

In fact, the cost of the treatment – around 90,000 euros – was paid by Igor K., but the question was raised as to where this high amount of money came from. The 35-year-old Montenegrin was already known to the police in his home country. In 2017, he was subjected to a police operation that led to the seizure of mobile phones, knives, a machete, two cars and 182,450 euros in cash, presumably proceeds of usury and drug trafficking.

Considering the implications and the media coverage, the city of Hanover, in agreement with the Ministry of Pistorius, has decided to expel the Montenegrin criminal, because ”the patient’s stay at the MHH represents a threat to security and public order”.  Igor K. therefore received an expulsion notification. Transported by helicopter to Turkey, he will continue his treatment in Istanbul.

The background

Igor K. is considered a member of the Škaljarski clan and the attempt on his life can be traced back to the clash that this criminal group has been conducting for some years now with the Kavački clan for the control of lucrative drug trafficking. Škaljarski and Kavački clan were originally united into one criminal group in the city of Kotor. However, the arrest in 2014 of the powerful drug trafficker Darko Šarić left an important space in the Montenegrin criminal underground to fill, and it was here that the splitting within the Kotor group began. Darko Šarić led a very sophisticated and flexible criminal group of Montenegrin Serbs. He relied on important connections with the institutions and police forces in the region, and was considered an efficient and reliable partner by the South American cartels in the cocaine traffic in Europe. The proceeds of the drug trade were then recycled by the narcoboss into various legitimate activities within the Balkan region, such as acquisition of coffee-shops. restaurants building plots and farmland, as well as the provision of loans and the conclusion of fictitious contracts. His arrest and the end of his criminal rule left an attractive space for criminals in the region who were willing to do anything to establish themselves in the drug trade.

The trigger was the disappearance in 2014 of 200kg of cocaine belonging to the Kotor criminal group in an apartment in Valencia. This episode sparked a bloody internal feud, which so far has led to the deaths of more than 40 people. The clash between Škaljarski and Kavački clan has ended up involving other criminal groups active in Serbia and Montenegro, which have split between the fighting factions. According to the investigative journalism portal KRIK, the Škaljarski clan is said to be supported by the Serbian criminal Luka Bojović, leader of the renewed Zemun clan and currently imprisoned in Spain. The reins of the criminal group are now held by his close collaborator Filip Korać, who has long been unknown to most, but who has recently received enormous visibility after Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić spoke out publicly calling Korać an extremely dangerous person and a real threat to the Serbian population. On the other hand, however, the Kavački clan in Serbia can count on the support of criminal elements linked to the Janjičari, an ultras group of the Belgrade Partizan, led by Aleksandar Stanković, also known as Sale ‘Mutavi’ (the mute), until his murder in 2016. The group of ‘Sale Mutavi’ has important coverage by the police forces and institutions of the country. The son of Serbian President Vučić himself is in friendly relations with some members of the Janjičari group, and has been photographed on more than one occasion in their company. 

After the violent episodes that took place on Serbian territory in the context of this war between clans, the government strongly supported the need to fight the criminal phenomenon in Serbia. Despite this, the action taken by institutions and law enforcement agencies to some observers has so far seemed to be one-sided, i.e. directed exclusively against the faction close to the Škaljarski clan.

The confrontation between these criminal groups is reaching vast dimensions, with murders also being carried out in other European countries. The Škaljarski clan is currently having the worst of it. Some members of this group have moved abroad but are however reached by their opponents. The conflict is now conducted outside any scheme. The goal is the annihilation of the opponent. The families of the criminals, their collaborators – such as lawyers, for example – are affected, and attacks are increasingly being carried out even in the presence of defenceless witnesses. There are cases of innocent victims who are accidentally hit by the criminals because they are sitting at the table next to the target of the shooting. The rival groups are particularly violent and brutal, as the attack on Igor K. shows; in this war without borders the clans resort to explosives and car bombs, but also to other forms of intimidation and retaliation.

Statistics also show that in most cases the material perpetrators get away with it. Last November, at an event organized by mafianeindanke in Berlin on the topics of corruption and organized crime, KRIK Serbian journalist Bojana Jovanović showed us their database of criminal and mafia murders on the territories of Serbia and Montenegro from 2012 to date. Out of 163 murders, only 13 (about 8%) have been solved, while in 97 cases (almost 60%) the perpetrators are unknown.

Recent developments in criminal confrontation

Last May we published a first in-depth analysis of the dynamics of this clash, in light of the events in Forst (Brandenburg), where two members of the Škaljarski clan, Darko M., and Nikola J., had been killed in an apartment in the German town, while two other criminals of the same group had been injured in the ambush.

The most recent period shows the surge of violence.

On 19 January, Igor Dedović, one of the leaders of the Škaljarski clan, was killed in a restaurant in Athens. Together with him, Stevan Stamatović, his close collaborator, was also eliminated. The two were killed in the presence of their wives, children and numerous guests of the restaurant. At this point the clan seemed to be left without a guide because Jovan Vukotić, the boss of the criminal group, was in prison in Serbia. Later, on 8 February, Vukotić has been extradited to Montenegro, where he is charged of attempted murder. He is also under investigation in Greece for trafficking 135kg of cocaine.

On 28 January, took place the attack on Igor K., who – according to the Serbian newspaper Blic – has close relations with Milić Minja Šaković, an important member of the Škaljarski clan who is in turn linked to Stevan Stamatović, took place.

Only about ten days later, four men close to the same clan, three Montenegrin citizens and one Bosnian citizen were arrested at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Belgrade. According the Serbian tabloids, they were supposedly organizing heavy criminal actions.

The most recent episode of violence, however, shows a different direction. Šćepan Roganović, a figure close to the Kavački clan and the third member of the Roganović family to be eliminated in the feud, was killed on 13 February in Herceg Novi (MNE) after the last on the list was his cousin Vladimir, killed in front of a restaurant in the centre of Vienna in December 2018.

The situation remains tense. The authorities in the region are not achieving particularly effective results in the fight against organised crime. The need to provide citizens with greater protection and security presupposes that the police forces and institutions of the countries concerned are more determined in the fight against the criminal phenomenon and, above all, that they cut off all links and forms of connivance with criminal groups at war.

Montenegro on the route of criminal trafficking

Montenegro is an important junction along the trafficking routes to the European Union. The Montenegrin clans, in fact, can rely on a privileged geographical position. Montenegro is a coastal state and its ports – particularly that of Bar – have always played a key role. Already in the 90’s, during the conflicts in ex-Yugoslavia, the Montenegrin criminal groups were protagonists in the smuggling of cigarettes towards Italy. For this smuggling they were able to rely on collaboration with representatives of the institutions and police forces of Montenegro, as well as with important Italian criminal organizations – Camorra and Sacra Corona Unita – and giants of the tobacco industry. Important political figures, such as the current President of Montenegro Milo Đukanović, were also involved in what was a real state smuggling. Relations between institutions, organized crime and security forces were also consolidated after the war and facilitated the inclusion of Montenegrin criminals in drug trafficking. Montenegro is located along the Balkan route, a key passage in the trafficking of opiates arriving from the Middle East (Afghanistan) and bound for European countries. But, at present, the country is a key hub for cocaine smuggling from South America. As pointed out in a recent report by ”The Global Initiative Against Organised Crime”, Montenegrin ports play an important role in these traffics, thanks to the good infrastructure, the coverage guaranteed by the police forces and the large workforce available to criminal groups.

Finally, the internal situation in Montenegro is causing concern. The country is permeated by a patronage and corrupt system. This is not the best for a country which, as a prerequisite for EU membership, must commit itself to fighting organised crime and corruption. The country’s institutions have recently made this commitment publicly.

According to some observers, the charges against criminals in the fight are stricter and tougher than those in Serbia, for example, demonstrating a seemingly greater commitment on this front. Therefore, we can only await developments in this matter, without forgetting that the only way to combat the criminal phenomenon is through the commitment of all the forces in the country, without compromising and legitimising the presence of these criminal groups. This is the only direction in which the fight must be pursued, with the aim of guaranteeing the security and safety of the citizens.

Filippo Spiezia: ”The European Commission wants to cut Eurojust’s operational budget. It is unacceptable and against the EU values”

The vice-president of Eurojust speaks at the conference ”Mafias: a European Problem”, organised at the European Parliament. Brussels, 5 February 2020.

On the 5th of February 2020 the conference ”Mafias: a European Problem” was held in Brussels at the European Parliament, promoted by the MEP Sabrina Pignedoli which saw, among the speakers, the vice-president of Eurojust Filippo Spiezia. His speech gave to the participants some food for thought that is worth reviewing.

At the beginning, Filippo Spiezia recalled the investigative operation Pollino, also known as “European ‘ndrangheta Connection”, which led to the arrest of 90 people in 2018 and produced one of the most effective judicial responses on a European level against mafia organisations. In particular, he praised the work of his German colleague Uwe Mühlhoff, Duisburg’s Public Prosecutor (here his remarks). Mr. Spiezia spoke about the important professional experience he and Mr Mühlhoff have undertaken together, praising his commitment and courage, which resulted in an operational axis between Italy and Germany of fundamental importance.

The vice-president of Eurojust has presented a preview of data that are the result of the work of the agency for the year 2019, stressing the importance of doing it in the European Parliament, where he can directly address the political power. Spiezia, in fact, argues that it is necessary to find new solutions to fight the mafias in Europe in the context of a renewed strategy. In its analysis a valid starting point remains ”the new EU strategy for the new millennium against organized crime” of May 2000 (C:2000:124:TOC), which presents an extraordinary topicality and effectiveness, as well as some important programmatic points that have not yet been implemented. It is therefore necessary to start again from this document, which contained important milestones in the fight against organised crime, and to evaluate the necessary additions.

But what do we mean when we talk about organised crime and mafia? At the moment, Spiezia specifies, we do not have a legally shared definition of organized crime, nor do we have an internationally valid legal definition of the concept of mafias. It is true, the Palermo Convention of 2000, Art. 2(a) defines the organized criminal group: ‘’structured group of three or more persons, existing for a period of time and acting in concert with the aim of committing one or more serious crimes or offences […] in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit’’. But this is a concept more a matter of doctrine than of legal definition. The mafia-type association, instead, is a crime provided for by the Italian legislator through the Rognoni-La Torre law (art.416-bis of the Penal Code) of 1982 and responds to a precise connotation.

‘’The fact that concerns us is that there is no perfect equivalence between organized crime and mafia crime. The mafia is a form of organized crime, but not all organized crime is mafia”, says Spiezia.

On the practical level, the major difference is given by the stability of the criminal project: the mafias are characterized by their vocation to exercise a form of anti-state within the territories and social communities, due to the force of intimidation (which is a normative parameter of 416-bis). Here lies the root of the problem: the vocation of the mafia organizations to carry out a stable criminal project over time. This has made it possible for the mafia organizations to evolve, starting from their territories of origin, to reach other regions of Italy and abroad.

Spiezia then analyses the Eurojust data and points out that the Agency’s action has increased in recent years. Between 2018 and 2019 Eurojust increased its operations by 17%, providing support in as many as 8000 investigations into transnational crime (2019).

Observing the judicial data of the body, however, it is noted that mafia-type organized crime is not considered in the priority areas of action of the European Union. It is undoubtedly present in the judicial data of Eurojust but is not formally classified among the priority areas because it does not fall within the classification parameters considered in the official documents of the Union. Paradoxically, therefore, the mafia phenomenon is not considered a priority. For what reason?

First of all, there is a problem of classification with regard to the presence of mafia-type organisations outside their territories of origin. The Italian Court of Cassation provides two different frameworks, apparently in contrast. The first orientation requires the ”proof that that organization had the capacity to exercise mafia control over the new territory of development. The other orientation maintains that it is not necessary to prove the projection of mafia intimidation on the new territory if there is the evident connection with the motherland”. To resolve the interpretative conflict, on July 17, 2019, the President of the Supreme Court of Cassation expressed his opinion on the matter, arguing that the problem concerned only the ”proof of the mafia method”. For the newly created mafias, which constitute themselves outside of their original centres, it is necessary that the new cell can manifest itself and express itself as a mafia cell, therefore, the projection of the mafia must be found on the territory. On the contrary, for the aggregates which are the manifestation of cells already existing in the motherland, there is no need to go and prove that on the territory of arrival there is a new mafia cell.

See, for example, Operation Pollino: for the mafiosi who go to Duisburg – or, more generally, for business in Germany and Holland – there is no need to prove that a new mafia cell has formed. It is sufficient to know that the mafia subject active in Duisburg belongs to a mafia-type criminal organization – the ‘ndrangheta – which is already proven to exist in Calabria.

There is, then, a problem of emergence of the phenomenon at a European level. This, according to Spiezia, depends, first, on the approach of the mafia operating abroad. These are always more silent, oriented towards business and the acquisition of markets. They often do not reproduce abroad those forms of intimidation and violence that they use in their original context. They bring, instead, “a more expendable face”. Therefore, it is difficult to perceive them, unless there is a contrast with other criminal groups active on the territory which lead to situations where – see the case of Duisburg – the mafias show their violent face again, because control and hegemony on the territory is once again at stake.

The emergence of the phenomenon, then, is blocked also by the lacks and inhomogeneity of the legal framework at European level. Today, a regulatory framework – the 2008 Council Framework Decision on the fight against organised crime (QD 2008/841/JHA) – is used, which is totally inadequate. It is necessary to have legislation that reflects the business model of these criminal organisations, which reflects how organised criminal groups operate in Europe today. It is essential to consider their transnational character. Today, the magistrate strongly emphasises, there is a need for relevant legislation at European level which takes this transnationality into account and which, on this basis, makes it possible to aggravate the punitive treatment. This is a legal vacuum that needs to be filled, as does the gap concerning collaborators of justice. The Deputy Director of Eurojust points out that often there is recourse to creative solutions because there are not the appropriate instruments to carry out the work effectively. Then there is certainly a need for a European and centralised management body for assets seized and confiscated from mafias. According to EU data, only 1% of the proceeds are taken away from organised crime. If we want to win the fight against the mafias, this is a trend which must be reversed.

The most heated and heartfelt reflection, however, concerns Eurojust’s working conditions. The valuable work of the European Judicial Coordination Agency is under threat due to major budget cuts. In this respect, Mr. Spiezia launches a serious warning to the European institutions: ‘’Beware of undermining the operational capacity of the coordinating body against mafia organisations (Eurojust n.d.r.). We are fighting the problem of the multi-financial framework. Do you know what it is? It is the budget limits that are set to determine the budget allocations for the following years. We have an operational budget for Eurojust which for this year is EUR 41 million. The European Commission proposal for the coming years is EUR 33 million. This means that, according to the European Commission’s forecasts, we now close the gates. This is called the ‘shutdown’ effect, which I cannot accept as a magistrate and as a representative of the institutions. The fact that the representatives of the Commission – who are sitting in the College of Eurojust for the first time – support this proposal is not respectful of the values on which the European institution is founded”.

The Italian magistrate therefore reaffirms the need to strengthen judicial coordination at European level and the action of Eurojust. He criticises the anomalous choices made by the European institutions in the allocation of resources. He takes the example of other law-enforcement agencies that are perhaps disproportionately strengthened, such as Frontex, which will be strengthened by recruiting 10000 people over the next few years, with the aim of creating an operational coastguard and no longer just supporting the Member States. It also highlights the inevitable complexity of the European bureaucratic machine, where there is a problem regarding the transmission of information. As far as Eurojust is concerned, Spiezia recalls that when the EU Justice Commissioner found out about the agency’s difficult economic and financial situation, he did not know what they were talking about. Aware of the facts, instead, it was another section of the EU (DG HOME). The EU therefore needs to review its priorities, eliminating dysfunctions and strengthening its actions. It is not enough to just allocate expertise, it is also necessary to provide adequate support and resources. Therefore – through the introduction of new instruments, the strengthening of operational structures and the revision of the regulatory framework – the fight against mafia-type organised crime must be included among the EU’s priorities in the light of a new strategy.

At the end of the conference, Mr Spiezia expressed the hope that the political authorities present will take on board the needs and requests presented by the rapporteurs in order to promote an initiative that will gather consensus and lead to a proposal for a directive for new European legislation on organised crime. 

Uwe Mühlhoff, Duisburg Prosecutor: “The ‘ndrangheta in Germany and Europe does not work alone: it cooperates with all criminal groups”

During a conference at the European Parliament on February 5, 2020, organized by the MEP of the Five Star Movement Sabrina Pignedoli, the Prosecutor of Duisburg Uwe Mühlhoff presented the results of the Pollino investigative action, which led to the arrest of 90 people throughout Europe and South America on December 5, 2018. The operation, also known as “European ‘ndrangheta Connection” is the result of an investigative collaboration between Italy, Germany and the Netherlands, formally united in the so-called JIT (Joint Investigation Team)

The JIT Pollino began to take shape as early as 2014 when the Dutch authorities became aware of a strange movement of Italian citizens of Calabrian origin who were gathering at the border between Germany and the Netherlands opening cafes and bars. So, the Dutch authorities began to seek cooperation, first in Germany and then in Italy. The JIT was formally established on 18 October 2016, thanks to the fundamental support of Eurojust. The collaboration was immediately fruitful, because some of the families active on Dutch and German soil were the same: the renown families of San Luca, the beating heart of the ‘ndrangheta in Calabria.

Before the creation of the JIT, it was impossible to carry out trans-national investigations in a productive way, since there was no type of collaboration between the police forces of the different European countries. This is where the JIT changed things: it allowed all the players in the game to receive the right information and support, not without obstacles. Prosecutor Mühlhoff remembers a key fact: after the formation of the JIT, two rogatory letters by the Direzione Distrettuale Antimafia (DDA) of Reggio Calabria arrived at the prosecutor’s office in Duisburg. These letters were, at first, incomprehensible to German investigators who lacked previous knowledge and training: “there were so many names”, says the prosecutor, “and they all sounded the same to us: all these Giorgi, Pelle, and so many allusions to past cases that we did not know about, we did not have the background information and at first we wondered: what are they talking about?”. The prosecutor points out that the DNA of a defendant who was found at the scene of the “Duisburg massacre” matched with that of a suspect in the Pollino investigation: it is therefore clear that there are relevant links between the 2007 slaughter and the more recent operation. Prosecutor Mühlhoff wants to specify that “the families involved in the Duisburg Massacre are still active and present in those areas”. Curious is the fact that, only fifty meters from the Local Court of Duisburg, there is a bar run by one of those families, where all the judges regularly have coffee.

A problem which is underlined by the Prosecutor Mühlhoff is the lack of personnel with regard to the investigations into organized crime in Germany, in particular, mafia-type: the attention of the police is very high, for example, against terrorism, but the action teams which deal with mafia are very few. In the specific case of the Duisburg Public Prosecutor’s Office, there are between 10 and 15 agents working in the group fighting organized crime, but they also deal with Bikers, Gangs and Arab Clans at the same time. In this respect, the contribution of the BKA, the German Federal Police, has been crucial and it willing to work on the case.

The Duisburg Public Prosecutor’s Office opened the investigation in August 2016 and deployed undercover agents and SWAT teams, with a special system of wiretap, car checks and financial investigations. “At first we thought that the ‘ndrangheta was working alone”, explains Mühlhoff, “but that’s not the case: it cooperates with all kinds of criminal groups – Turkish, Albanians, Moroccans – the 58 defendants in the German investigation come from a total of ten different countries. They work together: they cooperate wherever there is money to be made”. And the criminal activities were not only limited to drug trafficking, but also to supporting members of criminal families and money laundering through restaurants.

An important part of the investigation was the monitoring of 195 phone numbers that produced thousands of pages of wiretaps, as well as the decoding of some Blackberry phones and EncroChats (instant messaging application that uses special security protocols). The German police have also had surveillance gears inside defendant’s cars but – as reported by mafianeindanke almost a year ago – it was discovered by the defendants, also thanks to the advent of new technologies: the latest generation cars from Mercedes, BMW and Volkswagen send a notification to the owner’s phone when the car is opened, and the car companies have been reluctant to cooperate with justice. However, the surveillance stopped there, because in Germany it is virtually impossible to receive the authorisation to conduct audio surveillance in private homes and offices. The deployment of forces made it possible, however, to have undercover agents within Turkish groups doing business with the ‘ndrangheta and also managing to tail a defendant to South America where he was closing a deal of cocaine that would then be transported to Europe via the ports of Gioia Tauro in Italy and those of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Antwerp in northern Europe. But not only the ports are under the control of the clans: their influence also reaches the airports. This is the case with a deal of 25 kg of cocaine transported from Bogota to Miami and from Miami to Amsterdam airport through a rose delivery. “The important thing in this case”, continues Mühlhoff, “is that the ‘ndrangheta clans do not always have direct control over the ports and airports, but they enter thanks to other criminal groups”.

The Public Prosecutor points out, furthermore, how the action of the organs of justice is always too slow with regard to the clans: “as soon as we arrested an important member of the clan, within a few weeks, there was already someone to replace him, maintaining the criminal activities”. Another of the problems that the German police find is the fact that they cannot follow the movements of the cars through the license plate number: in Germany it is illegal to come into possession of these data. Another issue raised by the prosecutor of Duisburg is the lack of a national database: since Germany is a Federal Republic, each Land has its own rules and above all the data protection law is very restrictive and does not allow sensitive data to be kept for more than six months.

On the operational side the difficulties were many: it may seem trivial, but the translation of documents is one of them. From Italy there were pre-trial detention orders of more than a thousand pages long in which all the evidence was described in detail, which meant an allocation of more than 1.25 million euros by the Duisburg Public Prosecutor’s Office for the translations only. “It is more important to have one good translator than ten investigators”, notes Mühlhoff, who also points out that the exchange of documents between the different prosecution offices is still too complex and slow. A further reflection made by the prosecutor focuses on the question of the different laws that each country has adopted: everyone does what he can with what he has, so the work of mediation by Eurojust was fundamental. Mühlhoff also recalls how in Italy, the prosecutors who deal with these things, are very often threatened and forced to have a police escort and a life of hardship: “I feel lucky not to need it”, says the prosecutor. In Italy, regarding the confiscation of assets, there is the inversion of the burden of proof, in Germany, instead, it is still the investigators who must prove that the assets derive from criminal activities.

Another curious case testified by Mühlhoff was the confiscation of 3.5 tons of cocaine in Antwerp: following a defendant in Guyana, the Duisburg Public Prosecutor’s Office was able to trace a shipment of cocaine bound for Antwerp, and when the case was reported to the Belgian police, the drugs were confiscated inside a boat. The police authorities, in an attempt to frame the group who had bought that cargo of cocaine, sent the ship to the port of Antwerp with white powder similar to cocaine, but the Belgian police was not on the scene when the criminal group went to collect the drugs, why? Because it was Saturday, and there were no teams available on the weekend.

Another important element in the success of Operation Pollino was the possibility for the Duisburg Public Prosecutor’s Office to interview an Italian cooperating witness who had information about Germany. Mühlhoff then concludes by outlining guidelines for the future: “we need perseverance, motivation and the ability to learn and adapt to every situation: we have learned a lot from this investigation, and we will continue to do so. Transnational investigations can help if there are national deficits”, he continues, “mafias like the ‘ndrangheta do not work alone, they are a world wide web of criminal organizations. The puzzle can only be solved by working together, we may not have all the pieces but together we can have enough information to understand. In the future we will need much more European collaboration, not less”.

Mafias in Europe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Million-dollar revenues remain with the gangsters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you also working together and cooperating with police forces?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And what about the Italian organized crime?

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

Mafia kills

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

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

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

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

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

Sicily: the land of Antimafia


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.


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.


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.