The Mafia’s New Take on Organized Crime

Infestation of the Brussels Project.

The mafia in Europe has found a new and unique way to launder money from their enormous take from drug trafficking and other illegal businesses. They have started taking advantage of the Brussels Project, often laundering money from across the continent to invest in legal, legitimate businesses that it seems, have started to fail.

Mafia groups like the Cosa Nostra and Camorra have taken a low profile in their home towns and have gradually replaced violent crimes with clever money laundering tactics. These tactics are now becoming increasingly popular amongst the European mafia, with more gangs slowly getting involved in an organized feat fitting for the current times.

These alleged crimes are particularly rampant, though not limited to, the Italian mafia. They are rampant across the EU and most of the European mafia has started taking part in the new and hidden way of organized crime.

This sudden change in tactics was caused by the recent change in Italy’s law about the legal and illegal activities of criminal gangs. The law inculcates the seizure of property and assets upon criminal activity exposure. This law allows for mafia associates to be convicted even if no law has been broken. This has led to the changing face of the European mafia.

Italian MEP Sabrina Pignedoli has called for a EU-wide approach to fighting Mafia activities

Italian MEP Sabrina Pignedoli has called for a EU-wide approach to fighting Mafia activities

The face of the European mafia has become one that is both dynamic and very powerful. Switching to legal means has become one particular trend in organized crime that is now rampant. This trend allows for both a massive covert operation that is difficult to detect by police and an advantage that laypeople would believe to be beneficial for their respective countries.

Interestingly enough, some of the most powerful (but not necessarily largest) mafia gangs have been found in Italy, Finland, France, Spain and the Netherlands. These groups have generated over 40 billion Euros on an annual basis from their illicit activities. With this size of an income, it is imperative to understand what has caused such a huge change in their methods. Why turn to legal means for organized crime if the illegal methods were amassing such a large sum?

Well, for one, turning to legal means for organized crime has allowed them to lay low and keep their money invisible from law enforcement. Another reason is that by investing in failing or struggling economies, the mafia has managed to remain completely untraceable. Taking their money across borders is another way for them to remain in the bushes because no particular legislation has yet to be placed that would allow for police to detect such large-scale activity. Also, after so many years of the mafia being associated with drug cartels and other illicit activities, their sudden low-key lives in their respective countries was nothing but suspicious to the authorities, it took law enforcement some time to figure out what was going on.

The Sicilian Mafia and Agricultural Subsidies

One of the most recent cases of fraud has been that of the Sicilian mafia and agricultural subsidies. It was found that the Sicilian mafia managed to fraudulently receive agricultural aid on agricultural land that was either not real or belonged to the government. This was only the beginning as it has led to the implementation of one of the biggest raids ever made against the mafia.

So far, the police have reportedly arrested 94 suspects involved in the agricultural subsidies fraud, with more yet to come. One of the most surprising developments has been the alliance between the two major mafia gangs, the Batanesi and the Bontempo Scavo, who were rival gangs for several years. They decided to form an alliance and are suspected to be in the middle of this illegal activity.

The investigation also allowed for the seizure of around 150 companies suspected of being involved in the crime. Out of the 94 suspects arrested, the police have reported that two of the suspects have been identified as the heads of both mafia gangs mentioned above. Others that have been arrested include the local mayor and police officers whose job was to help farmers apply for the same agricultural aid that the mafia gangs managed to claim.

The police investigators have found that the reason behind this continental heist being so easy is that the EU has no set boundaries between countries. The mafia generally moves their assets using legal means and they cleverly invest in legal businesses as a means to make their laundered money undetectable. The process is quite simple. They legally transfer their money using banks and other legal means and invest in businesses in countries with failing economies within the EU.

Italian Police

Italian Police

While this may not seem problematic to the layperson – on the surface this activity is actually helping to strengthen the economy; the problem with the activity is that the money being used has been laundered from massive, illegal drug trafficking.

A pattern has also started to come to light in this rampant organized crime. Mafia gangs do not invest in technological industries; they do not have the resources or knowledge to pull off such crime (yet). Instead, they invest in construction, restaurant, real estate and other such businesses. Many gangs have invested in malls. This is because the European mafia has an understanding of such investments and they know that their investments will remain more invisible, as opposed to investments made in the tech industry (which are more public).

The fact that the mafia has managed to go undetected and unscathed from criminal accusations is quite mind-boggling. But police investigations are extremely in-depth and the police are trying to uncover years of criminal activity that had previously gone unnoticed. This may take years, but with proper laws and punishments in place, a solid conviction may be reached for each mafia gang and family. Anti-mafia legislation has become one of the recently trending topics amongst civilians and politicians alike, but the extent to which such legislation can be implemented on a continental basis is still unclear, so no official bills have been passed regarding such laws – yet.