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.

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.

European Week for the fight against organized crime 2015 in Brussels


The European Commission is developing into a major player on the fight against mafia and organized crime in Europe. Brussels’ directives made their mark against money laundering. Also final report of CRIM Committee on European organized crime added fuel to the fire. Now, the European Parliament puts in the limelight this problematic matter. As a result of recent increase of interest in this topic, in November 2015 in, under the auspices of the European Parliament „European Week for the fight against organized crime” took place. Our partner organization Cultura Contro Camorra was among the organizers and Mafia? Nein, danke! e.V. was represented by several delegates. Here is a detailed report on the event.

EVS selection


We are selecting a new volunteer for the European Voluntary Service here in Berlin, with Mafia? Nein danke! e.V. 

 “The volunteer must be between 18 and 30 y.o. and will be enrolled in the project called: Confiscation and social-economy to face criminal economies for 12 months, starting in October 2015.

Send us your application (CV and motivation letter) via email either in English, German or Italian by Friday, 17th July 2015: