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.

German and the Italian legal frameworks to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism


The International Monetary Fund has assessed the German and the Italian legal frameworks to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism. Reports have been published respectively in June and in February of this year. The evaluation of Italy is overall positive. Despite the high risk of money laundering, the country has a well developed legal system, authorities are able to undertake complex financial investigations, and entities involved in the prevention of money laundering have a good understanding of the phenomenon. Nevertheless, the achieved results are not commensurate with the volume of proceeds of crime generated in and outside the country. The use of shell-companies and other corporate vehicles for the purpose of money laundering and tax evasion is well known by authorities (especially by the Guardia di Finanza), however, more transparency with regard to beneficial owners is advocated. Particularly banks are considered vulnerable to money laundering due to the range of products they offer, the transaction volumes they handle, and the interconnectedness of the banking sector with the international financial system. Yet, the IMF does not call for the hardening of sanctions for banks, nor for the introduction of corporate liability.

Operation „Two Seas” – 11 tons of cocaine with an estimate worth of $3.3 billion seized


In the end of last month, the operation „Two Seas” came to a successful end exposing a multicontinental drug trafficking ring. The Colombian, Italian and US collaboration resulted in the seizure of 11 tons of cocaine with an estimate worth of $3.3 billion. The cocaine smuggling operation from Colombia to Europe was allegedly lead by Franco and Giuseppe Cosimo Monteleone who are said to be ‘Ndrangheta members with the help of local organized crime groups:National Liberation Army (ELN) and bandas criminals known as BACRIM. Each of the aforementioned organization was essential on the operational level and had its own role in the smuggling procedure: the former provided security for drug labs and smuggling routes to the latter that controlled the sea departure points where drugs were hidden in shipments of tropical fruit.

Norway – the least corrupted country in the world.


According to 2015 edition of Transparency Internationals’ Corruption Perception Index Denmark is the least corrupt country in the world. Until now it has been the most reliable and highly graded study in the domain of countries’ corruption rate. This year a new study conducted as a part of the ANTICORRP project (a EU-founded research group) has been released and surprisingly not Denmark but Norway is in the lead. The winner’s shift can be easily explained: the ANTICORRP research project founded by the European Commission re-evaluates the measurement variables in order to render them objective. Contrary to the Transparency International’s study, the corruption index is not measured by this specific countries experts according to each country’s domestic sense of what corruption is – the group studies publicly know data in the six big domains: judicial independence, administrative burden, trade openness, budget transparency, e-citizenship, and freedom of the press.

Is laundering money in Spielothekes possible?


Walking Berlin’s streets it is impossible not to notice the overwhelming amount of shiny, colorful „SPIELOTHEK” signs, sometimes placed one next to another. As an example: Sonnenallee in Neukölln, where the Spielothekes have taken over the reins. Something that – on the first glimpse – looks like a harmless counterfeit of western casinos, in reality might be the „habitat” of organized crime groups’ activities. It is suspected that the slot machines (the most common device in Spielhalles) can be tampered, in order to funnel money into the legal system. The study shows that from 2006 to 2012 the number of slot machines has increased by four and the sector’s turnover has raised by 40%.

Open call for two volunteers (EVS) to join MND, starting January 2017


Call for applicants: two EVS (European Voluntary Service) positions with mafianeindanke e.V. in Berlin. The volunteering period will start in January 2017 and will last 12 months.

Conditions:

Applicants must be 17 to 30 years old and hold a citizenship of a country participating to the Erasmus + programme. The economic conditions are established by the Commission and include the refund of the return ticket (with a kilometric lump sum), food and accommodation, health care insurance, public transport, online language course and a monthly pocket money of 110 euros.