Mafia, crime and business

Criminal activity mapped out in EU-funded project " "

In order to combat organized crime in Europe it’s not enough to arrest the perpetrators. It is necessary to collect information on the criminal networks, illegal trafficking, identifying areas of illegal activity that bring profit and the legal ones in which the criminal organizations reinvest the sums, targeting the grey zone of criminal infiltration representing the boundary between illegality and legality and constituting the safety-box of mafia-style organized crime. It is the target of the researchers involved in “Organised Crime Portfolio” (www.ocportfolio.eu), a project funded by the European Community. Ever more tightly-woven, undefined network. The report was the main theme of a conference organized March 3rd at the Cattolica University in Milan, the venue of Transcrime, the Research Centre that coordinates the activity of a team comprising the representatives of eight European universities and national agencies. “Organized crime is an increasingly tightly-woven net where trans-national criminal collaboration thrives – said Michael Levi, Professor of criminology at Cardiff University, advisor at the British government – but which many Countries don’t have a perception of, simply because we’re not dealing with the typical criminal organizations depicted by collective imagination, namely, ‘top-down’ structures deeply rooted at local level. In fact, often these criminal organizations are smaller and undefined, but not less dangerous”. A turnover of over 150 billion euros. Organized crime is a galaxy capable of making unimaginable profits from illegal activity, which according to estimates could range from 150 to 200 billion euros per year. According to figures collected by the researchers involved in the project, frauds against individual citizens (ranging from extortion to theft, to usury) bring in some 97 billion euro to organized crime, 30 billion is the profit resulting from human trafficking, 20 bln from frauds against the EU, in addition to 11 billion from tax evasion on cigarettes and 3 billion from frauds in the field of agriculture and structural funds. “We have kept estimates low, thus the real figures could be much higher”, said Levi, who announced that the full figures will be released upon the termination of the research in the coming November. Italian mafia in Europe. Thus huge amounts of money are eventually reinvested in legal markets. And this is where the most interesting findings emerged. In fact, while sources of illicit gain are often similar – drug dealing, extortion, environmental crimes, theft, human trafficking for prostitution, for example – the resources are invested in many different sectors of the economy. As for the Italian organizations (mafia, “cosa nostra”, ‘Ndrangheta or Calabrian mafia and Puglia mafia), in addition to “traditional” sectors for doing business (construction, transportation, real estate), the emerging sectors are catering, food wholesale, renewable energy, penetrating a large geographic area extending from Albania to Portugal, from the United Kingdom to Romania, passing by France, Germany and Croatia. ‘Ndrangheta organized crime wormed its way throughout Europe, with a strong presence especially in central Europe. More Russians, Chinese and Nordic gangs. Researchers highlighted other criminal organizations in the European territory. The survey identifies at least four: Chinese organizations, Russian/Georgian organizations, the so-called “motorcycle gangs”, (mostly widespread in Northern Europe) and other smaller criminal organization in Eastern Europe. With regard to areas of investment, Chinese mafia are involved in catering industry as well as in manufacturing and in retail trade of textiles, the Russian organizations primarily in real estate and the hotel industry and the motorcycle gangs in private security and maintenance services and cleaning of vehicles. With regard to the geographical areas, the Georgian-Russian organizations are particularly active in Spain, UK, France, Germany and Italy, the Chinese mafia in Italy and the UK, while the motorcycle gangs are present in the Netherlands, Germany and Finland. Territorial dimension is not at all rigid and criminal organizations move without constraints, making it harder to combat by law enforcement authorities. “In order to effectively combat organized crime in Europe – said Transcrime director, Ernesto Savona – we must first overcome asymmetries in the regulatory frameworks of the various European countries while encouraging research and the sharing of data at supranational level. On this we are lagging behind in many countries. A lot needs to be done, but it can be said that the journey has begun”.

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