Mafia gangs are working together to control world drug trade, says top Italian prosecutor
Italy’s new national anti-mafia prosecutor said Thursday that Italian organised crime gangs are increasingly cooperating to control international drug trafficking.
Prosecutor Federico Cafiero De Raho told an anti-mafia conference in Milan that the Italian mafias “are not isolated. By now, they move together. The ‘ndrangheta, Cosa Nostra, Camorra, also the groups from Puglia” work together, coordinating, for example, ports they use for heroin and cocaine shipments.
“They are able to change the commander on a ship in Panama, and insert their own commander, so the ship can handle a big transport of drugs,” Cafiero De Raho said, illustrating their reach.
While in southern Italy organised crime “occupies the entire territory,” in the north the mafia is making inroads by entering the real economy by preying on businesspeople in difficulty who accept financial help to keep their business alive, until eventually they are forced out.
Cafiero De Raho urged Italian law enforcement and magistrates to cooperate on exchanging data and other information, saying it was “the first step in the strategy” to defeat organised crime.
Outgoing national anti-mafia prosecutor Franco Roberti said while everyone wants to know who the new “boss of bosses” of the Sicilian mafia could be now that Salvatore “Toto” Riina has died after nearly a quarter-century in jail, the real question is why the mafia persists and gains strength.
“How is it possible, after all the work to fight the mafia the last 25 years that the mafia is still strong? They have spread to areas beyond their origins,” he said. “Why has the mafia not been defeated?”
While strides have been made in drafting more effective legislation, Roberti said the justice and law enforcement systems must work together to bring down the mafia, and that one key is to focus on hard drugs, cocaine and heroin, and not be distracted by soft drugs.
A common theme of the panel discussion was that the mafia has proven very adaptable to new scenarios, preying on weakness and looking for economic crises as sources of opportunities.
Italy’s justice minister, Andrea Orlando, said the mafia “is a blemish on our competitiveness,” and impacts the nation’s ratings.
“The mafia hasn’t won, but nor has it lost,” Orlando said. “There cannot be only celebrations. We are seeing an intolerable growth in a grey area in the inattention of public opinion.”
Italy’s Finance Minister, Pier Carlo Padoan told the gathering that Italian organised crime finds new opportunities for wealth in new instruments created by the financial industry to evade regulation.
“In these operations, the mafia finds space to profit,” Padoan said. “The velocity with which institutions responds is always insufficient.”
He warned that Brexit could provide new opportunities for the mafia, as financial investments move from London to other European capitals.
“The evolution of the financial geography can attract the criminal world,” he said.