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.

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.

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.

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.

OLAF to close record numbers of investigations in 2015


In 2015 the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) closed 304 investigations, issued 364 recommendations to the Member States and EU authorities and opened 219 new investigations. The growth of efficiency is due to the 2012 OLAF reorganization, which turned out beneficial – in 4 years the office has reduced the number of long-lasting investigations by half.  What is worth noticing is that not only Europe-based investigations were handled by OLAF (as examples: fraud investigation in an ecological project in Africa or evasion of anti-dumping duties in Japan and Malaysia).

INTERPOL and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) sign an agreement on tackling transnational organized crime and terrorism.


23 May 2016 in Vienna an agreement on tackling transnational organized crime and terrorism challenges was signed between INTERPOL and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). In November 2016 it will be submitted to the INTERPOL General Assembly for approval. Its main goal is to introduce a Joint Action Plan across six common areas: terrorism, illicit trafficking and organized crime, cybercrime, maritime and border security, forensic and criminal justice capacity, and institutional capacity.

EU Directive on the freezing and confiscation – help in the fight against organized crime groups?


Fighting the organized crime is a complex process that encompasses not only hunting down and breaking crime rings, but also making sure that any profit they have made is eventually seized.  The law has to unable criminals to freely dispose assets acquired in an illegal way. Yet according to a general rule all accused are „innocent until proven guilty”. Although in many European countries aforementioned rule does not apply in certain cases (especially in the criminal law where the burden of proof is shifted onto the defendant), the European Union decided to officially align its Member States’ regulations on that subject. Works on a directive started in 2012 and the final version was presented in 2014 – „Directive 2014/42/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 3 April 2014 on the freezing and confiscation of instrumentalities and proceeds of crime in the European Union”. This document fits perfectly into European Union’s priorities for the fight against serious and organized crime between 2014 and 2017.