What criminal organizations are doing in Italy

The Anti-Mafia Investigation Directorate (Dia) has delivered its report on the second half of 2020 to Parliament, a document prepared periodically which, in addition to showing data on the trend of crimes in Italy, provides an accurate view on how it has moved and intends to move organized crime and the operational capacity of mafia organizations.

First of all, some data: criminal organizations have been kidnapped for 287.5 million euros in the second half of 2020, while in the first six months they had been 88 million. The confiscations of assets amounted to 181 million euros (the difference is that the seizure is temporary, the definitive confiscation). However, this has not weakened the clans which, according to Dia analysts, still have an enormous availability of cash. Compared to the second half of 2019, the report says, “mafia-type and mafia-type murders” have decreased, passing from 125 to 121 and from 80 to 41. On the other hand, crimes related to the appropriation of public funds and infiltrations have increased. in administrations and entrepreneurship. The report says:

The most recent info-investigative activities confirm how mafia-type criminal organizations, in their incessant process of adaptation to the changing contexts, have in recent years implemented their networks and relational skills by replacing the use of violence, increasingly residual, with lines of action of silent infiltration.

Criminal organizations, in essence, are becoming more and more entrepreneurial. There have been multiple instances of bribery, bribery and undue induction as well
of auction disruptions. The trend, the Dia analysts explain, is on the rise despite the stagnant phase of the economy. To avoid bank tracking, payments and exchanges in Bitcoin and, more recently, in Monero, another cryptocurrency, are increasing.

During the coronavirus emergency, as the economy went into crisis, criminal organizations thrived, according to the report. They figured out where to go to earn money and they did it fast. From face masks to counterfeit drugs, they have found new operating spaces. But above all, they have developed strategies both to take over companies in difficulty inexpensively, and to grab the public resources allocated to face the health emergency.

The strategy was different in the various areas of Italy: in the North, criminal groups attacked private businesses, investing their capital. They bought companies, bars, restaurants, shops that got into trouble during the lockdown. In the South, on the other hand, they concentrated on the flow of public funding allocated to encourage growth. As far as money laundering is concerned, the attention of criminal organizations has focused on gambling and betting, especially online. Entrepreneurs linked to clans have created and create companies in various tax havens, giving rise to circuits competing with the legal ones. These operations allow you to make a lot of money and easily launder it.

– Read also: Half of the assets seized from organized crime are unused

On the one hand, criminal organizations have therefore accentuated their entrepreneurial vocation (the mix of criminal leadership and corporate management is increasingly frequent), on the other hand they have not given up control of the territory. Crimes related to drug trafficking and smuggling are on the rise, despite the long restrictions on mobility in 2020. And extortion (aimed more at taking over activities than at charging a fee) and usury offenses are also on the rise.

There is a fact that emerges from what are called “spy crimes”, that is, those that indicate a trend: criminal organizations are preparing to turn their attention to the community funds of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan. To counteract the objectives of the clans, the Anti-Mafia Investigation Directorate suggests:

«That the shared action of countries to overcome the health emergency can be expressed with similar intensity of fire in the globalized contrast to the more structured criminal organizations and with international branches that exploit the legislative inhomogeneities of the various actions. For an effective fight against these pitfalls, in addition to a desired and increasingly meaningful shared legislation, an ever greater impulse is required in the circulation of information and in synergistic cooperation between the investigative and judicial bodies of the individual countries “.

Trying to obtain part of the funds from the Recovery Fund is certainly the ‘Ndrangheta, the now strongest criminal organization in Italy, one of the most powerful in the world, defined by Dia as “silent”. It is the first in the cocaine trafficking, capable of having relations both with the most violent and bloodthirsty groups of the South American drug trafficking and with politicians, administrators, entrepreneurs. Dia says that “the ‘Ndrangheta expresses an ever higher level of infiltration in the political-institutional world,
obtaining undue advantages in the granting of public contracts and contracts ».

Thanks to the widespread corruption, especially in some areas of the country, the choices of local authorities are conditioned and polluted, also sometimes altering the electoral competitions. The confirmation comes from the numerous dissolution of municipalities in Calabria due to criminal infiltration: out of 29 municipalities whose dissolution has been decided, in 15 the motivation was criminal infiltration.

However, the ‘Ndrangheta is not only active in Calabria. The gangs are present in Northern Italy (25 ‘editors have been identified in Lombardy, 14 in Piedmont). Clan ‘ndranghetisti are in Pioltello (Milan) as well as in Lavagna (Genoa), in Lona Lases (Trento) as well as in San Giusto Canavese (Turin). Abroad, the ‘Ndrangheta has arrived in Canada, the United States, Romania, Austria, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Spain, France, United Kingdom, Australia. It acts on a large scale but, despite the enormous resources it has accumulated, it also takes care, for example, of exploiting citizenship income and shopping vouchers: 135 irregular earners have been identified in Locri, many of them were linked to criminal clans.

A positive fact comes from the fact that the organization is no longer waterproof and monolithic. Even in the ‘Ndrangheta, there began to be collaborators of justice.

– Read also: The story of Matteo Messina Denaro, the most sought after

The Sicilian mafia, Cosa Nostra, appears, according to Dia, more in difficulty. Francesco Messina, central anti-crime director, said: «Cosa Nostra Siciliana, deprived of prominent men of honor, found itself forced to reshape its decision-making schemes, adhering to a more horizontal and concerted process. In other words, it has been oriented towards the search for a greater interaction between the various provincial articulations ». In difficulty in Italy, the Cosa Nostra is intensifying and revitalizing relations with American families. The interests of the Cosa Nostra are always the same: extortion, usury, drug trafficking, drug dealing, control of illegal gambling, pollution of the economy of the reference territories above all
in the fields of construction, earthmoving, waste disposal, management of cemetery services and transport. And then there is the extortion racket, typical of the Cosa Nostra’s modus operandi: simple to put into practice and with ample earning potential.

According to the report of the Dia, the Camorra “remains a macro-criminal phenomenon with a particulate-conflict configuration in terms of dynamics and methods”. There is no organized hierarchical structure as it has always been for the Sicilian mafia. The clans are many, well rooted in their territory, often in conflict with each other. Alliances and agreements of non-belligerence and wars between families alternate according to the needs. There are the strongest organizations such as the Mazzarella-Licciardi-Contini clans, the Amato-Pagano, the Nuvoletta-Polverino, the Moccia, the Schiavone and Zagaria clans. Around them dozens of small clans and groups move in what appears to be a criminal anarchy but which is then well ordered in the division of the territory.

The murders of a Camorra matrix have decreased and are almost all attributable, writes the Dia, “to internal purification logics aimed at preserving the balance and controlling every centrifugal thrust”. The Camorra clans also manage criminal interests in the rest of the country and abroad and focus on drug trafficking, usury loans, extortion, trade in counterfeit products, cigarette smuggling, gambling, insurance fraud, tax fraud. However, the main interest seems to be constituted by the traffic of waste, considered one of the most profitable activities.

The headquarters of the National Anti-Mafia Directorate in Rome. (Fabio Cimaglia / LaPresse)

However, it is perhaps the Apulian organized crime that seems to be growing faster. Giovanni Salvi, Attorney General of the Republic at the Supreme Court of Cassation said: “The Apulian mafia is characterized by irrepressible effervescence which is reflected in the composition and power of the associations”. The Sacra Corona Unita operates mainly in Salento, while the Foggiana Society is active in the Foggia area and the Camorra Barese in the Bari area.

It should be noted, said Salvi, “the dynamism and unmanageability of the new recruits, eager to climb the hierarchy and willing to do anything to fill top positions. If we add to this an enormous availability of weapons, proven by numerous kidnappings, it is evident that any alteration of the fragile and temporary balances and, more generally, any obstacle to the most unscrupulous criminal business, is hastily resolved with homicidal facts “. In particular, the Foggiana Company is expanding, defined as a chameleon, capable of being both rough and ferocious but economically modern and with an entrepreneurial vocation.

The Dia report also analyzes the presence of foreign criminal organizations present in Italy. The Albanian criminals, Dia writes, usually deal with the procurement of drugs which are then sold to local associations for the management of the shop. The Chinese organizations appear “as a closed and inaccessible structure that only occasionally deals with Italian criminal organizations, especially for the management of prostitution or for the trafficking of waste”. Romanian crime is present above all in multi-ethnic groups active in drug and arms trafficking but also, it is written in the report, in the trafficking of women to be initiated into prostitution and in computer crimes.

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Nigerian crime (a strong settlement is on the Domitio coast, in Campania) has been deeply rooted since the 1980s and acts on different levels. There is simple labor: usually small retail dealers. But there are above all the so-called secret cults, secret organizations characterized by a strong hierarchy, paramilitary structure, rites of affiliation, codes of conduct.

The Court of Cassation has recognized several times in the secret cults the typical connotation of mafia. Black Ax, Eiye, Maphite, Vikings are the names of the main ones present in Italy. Their criminal interests are in drug trafficking, migrant smuggling, human trafficking, pimping and exploitation of workers. The Nigerian one is now considered after the Cosa Nostra, ‘Ndrangheta, Camorra and Sacra Corona Unita, the fifth mafia. Already in 2018 a report by the Italian secret services explained that “in the panorama of foreign mafias the Nigerian formations are confirmed as the most dynamic and structured”.

Finally, there is one last aspect on which the Anti-Mafia Investigation Directorate focuses in its report. It is that of the so-called “baby gangs” who, we read, have no criminal background but are dangerous for their desire to emerge and get noticed, and for the will to conquer territorial spaces that they then try to maintain with “forms of urban gangsterism such as stretched out [cioè dimostrazioni di forza in cui si spara in aria], ambushes and armed carousels ».

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