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”.