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Italy’s Mafia Plague Spreads to Germany

Corleone in Sicily - A Mafia HQ?

Der Spiegel recently ran an article on how the Italian mafia is infiltrating Germany. From the article, it sounds as if the German authorities don’t yet know how to deal with their growing mafia problem.

Even more worrying for Germany is that Italy’s mafia is having the same disasterous effect on the economy in the Cologne area as it has had for years on the economies of a number of regions in Italy, particularly in Italy’s south. According to Der Spiegel, German union Ver.di says economic damage caused by mafia operations amounts to around €10 billion a year. Not only is Germany losing out in terms of tax income and social security contributions, but the mafia is killing local businesses. The parallels to Italy are unmistakable.

Mafia Triad Penetrates Germany

All three of Italy’s most well known and powerful mafia organizations have expanded into Germany.

The Sicilian Cosa Nostra has infiltrated the construction sector, while Naples’ insidious Camorrah mafia are selling counterfeit brand-name products. And the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta mafia is doing a roaring trade in drug trafficking and it also deals in Italian gourmet foods. Olive oil and supposedly high quality Italian ham are being adulterated by the ‘Ndrangheta mafia in Germany.

Each of Italy’s mafias has honed their skills for many years in Italy and now they appear to be drawing upon their Italy experience to set up shop in Germany.

Managing the mafia problem is proving a headache for German prosecutors, who are obviously not used to the Italian mafias’ highly sophisticated modes of operation. As in Italy, Italy’s mafias are using intimidation, violence and are corrupting local officials. If it has not happened already, it’s probably only a matter of time before the mafias end up with their own people in positions of power at both local and national levels in Germany.

What can the German authorities do?

If they are not doing so already, they should be speaking to Italy’s anti-mafia units, many of whom now have years of experience in bringing down mafia operations. Mafia asset seizures are commonplace in Italy, which leads us to scenario one.

Why is the Mafia in Germany? – Scenario One

Maybe it is becoming a little too hard for Italy’s mafias to operate as freely as they once did in Italy. This may explain why Germany is being ‘invaded’.

Then again, there’s another, more sinister, scenario.

Why is the Mafia in Germany? – Scenario Two

Under Berlusconi’s rule of Italy, the Camorrah and ‘Ndrangheta appear to have gained considerable power. A number of Berlusconi’s associates are known or suspected of having links to the Sicilian mafia and to the Naples’ Camorrah. On top of this, rumours are growing daily in Italy that the Lega Nord party, a long-time Berlusconi ally, is more or less run by the ‘Ndrangheta mafia.

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Slowly but surely during Berlusconi’s reign over Italy, the ‘Ndrangheta mafia has been spreading its tentacles ever further northward, and, it now seems, has moved as far north as Germany.

The same is also true of the Camorrah which once appeared to restrict its operations to the area around Naples. Today, as Germany well knows, the Camorrah has set up fully functional oversea branches.

Scenario two, in conclusion, is that Italy’s mafias have become so extraordinarily powerful that they are freely expanding their operations beyond Italy’s borders.

Germany Could Blame Italy for the Mafia Invasion

Perhaps Germany could lay the blame for the presence of the mafias firmly on Italy’s doorstep.

Arguably, maybe, Italy’s failure to curb mafia power is the reason why these economically destructive, and murderous, criminal organizations have managed to spread disease-like into formerly uninfected new areas, such as Germany.

Should Ms Merkel Request Italy’s Anti-Mafia Know-how?

Yes, Ms Merkel probably should, only if she were to ask now, it is unlikely Germany would receive much of Italy’s vast and growing anti-mafia know-how. Why? Primarily because Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi will be very reluctant to take action on the anti-mafia front until such time as Berlusconi and his party have been completly marginalized.

While this is taking place, it is not yet at a point where Mr Renzi can implement anti-mafia polices without losing the Berlusconi camps’ support for his reforms of Italy. For now, this is something Mr Renzi cannot afford to do.

Others in Italy have noticed a certain reluctance on Mr Renzi’s part to tackle the mafia issue. Yesterday, 5 Star Movement Senator, and long time anti-mafia exponent Michele Giarrusso, criticized Mr Renzi for being far too soft on the anti-mafia front. 

Mr Renzi, however, has openly stated that he will step up Italy’s efforts to counter Mafia PLC. Perhaps, for reasons already given, he is not able to act. Once Silvio Berlusconi is no longer a threat to the stability of Italy’s Renzi-led government, Renzi may begin to tackle the mafia issue. The Berlusconi threat, however, is unlikely to be conclusively eliminated until the Ruby and other cases Berlusconi is involved in have reached conclusions, but this may not happen for another two years or so.

Once Berlusconi is out of play once and for all, Ms Merkel could consider making an approach to Italy for help with Germany’s growing mafia problem.

In the meantime, though, Germany may well have to battle the Italian mafia more or less alone.

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