25 July 2006

Italian Mafia Boosted Revenue by 25% in 2005, SOS Impresa Says

Italian crime syndicates, including the Sicilian Mafia, boosted their revenue by 25 percent last year, according to SOS Impresa, a Rome-based group that coordinates businesses that reject mob extortion.

Italy's four main crime organizations drained 35 billion euros ($44.2 billion) from the legal economy in 2005, up from 28 billion euros the previous year, SOS Impresa said in its annual report. The figures exclude drugs and arms sales.

"This isn't just a regional problem; it's a big problem for the entire country,'' said Marco Minniti, deputy minister of the interior, today after the presentation of the document. "The presence of the mafia makes Italy a weaker country.''

Incomes in Italy's south, known as the Mezzogiorno, remained two-thirds those of the rest of the country over the last two decades because of organized crime, according to the Censis research institute in Rome. Average unemployment in the south is four times that of the north, topping 20 percent in some areas and reaching 38 percent for 15- to 24-year-olds, the government statistics office says. There are three main crime syndicates in Italy, all rooted in the Mezzogiorno. The Camorra thrives in Naples and the region of Campania, the 'Ndrangheta controls much of Calabria, and Cosa Nostra has a tight grip on the island of Sicily.

Loan sharking and extortion make up more than half of mafia income, according to the report. The mafia forced 160,000 businesses to pay extortion last year, SOS Impresa says. Eighty percent of all businesses in Palermo and Catania, Sicily's two biggest cities, gave kickbacks to the mob last year, the report said.

"In a quarter of Italy there's no freedom to do business,'' said Tano Grasso, Italy's former anti-extortion commissioner. "Only 1 percent of all foreign investment in Italy goes to the Mezzogiorno, and that has a lot to do with organized crime.'' Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, who took office just over two months ago, pledged during his campaign to make the fight against organized crime a top priority.

Cosa Nostra's undisputed boss Bernardo Provenzano, 73, was captured a day after national elections in April after 43 years on the lam. Since his arrest, police have also picked up and charged most of the family bosses in the province of Palermo in an operation they called ``Gotha.''

"The capture of Provenzano not only had symbolic meaning in Sicily, but it had an immediate impact on ongoing investigations,'' said Senator Alfredo Mantovano, who was undersecretary to the Interior for the previous government.

While acknowledging the importance of Provenzano's capture, SOS Impresa President Lino Busa underlined the territorial control exerted by crime syndicates and their growing power. ``There's nothing new about how they operate,'' said Busa. "But the situation is enormously underestimated.''

SOS Impresa is sponsored by Confesercenti, Italy's second-biggest retail lobby. Its numbers were based primarily on elaborations of figures from the Interior Ministry, government statistics office Istat, and surveys carried out by SWG Srl polling company.
July 24, 2006 (Bloomberg)

24 July 2006

Integration is key to organized crime fight: panel

One of the best ways for Canadian law enforcement agencies to overcome the challenges behind lengthy, expensive and complex criminal investigations is to integrate-and then integrate some more. This was the overwhelming consensus reached by four panelists during an organized crime seminar held at the Canadian Police College last February.

"These investigations (into organized criminal activity) require a great deal of surveillance, so they are incredibly expensive to conduct," said Toronto Police Chief William Blair. "We can only afford them if they are integrated efforts."

It was a boon for law enforcers to have the new "criminal organization" charges introduced in 2001 under anti-gang legislation (Bill C-24), panellists agreed. According to C-24, those offenders found to be associated with a criminal organization are subject to 14 years over and above any substantive charges. Those who are found to be directing a criminal organization could face life in prison.

However, building a case that will support such charges is a formidable challenge for police investigators, said Blair, adding it requires a lot of intelligence-gathering, including extensive wiretapping efforts. Such an operation could go on for several years, after which time police need people to transcribe phone intercepts and pool all of the intelligence together into a comprehensive disclosure package that can be presented in court.

For past investigations involving criminal organization charges, which are found in section 467 of the Criminal Code, the Toronto Police Service has teamed up with other police agencies in the Greater Toronto Area, the RCMP and provincial prosecutors who are dedicated to the investigation from start to finish, Blair said.

George Dolhai, senior general counsel with the Department of Justice’s Federal Prosecution Service, said it’s crucial for the prosecution to consult with police from Day 1 of any investigation where criminal organization charges are the end goal. "The (eventual) trial in a complex case is often a trial of the investigation. The more police have an eye out for the prosecution’s (needs), the stronger position they will be in at the time of takedown."

Police can also keep an investigation’s cost at bay by ensuring it has a clear focus and specific objective, added Graeme Cameron, deputy director of the Ontario Crown Law Office - Criminal. Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of the overall goal, he said, especially during projects that span several years

RCMP Gazette Vol. 68, Issue 2 2006

18 July 2006

Reid plans 'super-Asbos' to fight major crime rings

Drug traffickers, fraudsters and smugglers are to be hit by "super-Asbos" designed to disrupt the activities of crime rings.

The Home Office said that the move would crack down on the "Mr Bigs" who considered themselves untouchable and deter other people from becoming involved in criminal gangs. The plan is the first in a series of measures from John Reid, the Home Secretary, designed to chart the way forward for his troubled department.

Known criminals against whom it is difficult to construct a criminal case could face restrictions similar to those faced by people receiving antisocial behaviour orders (Asbos). So-called serious crime prevention orders could include controls on where subjects travel and who they contact by telephone, limits on the amount of cash they can carry and bans on using certain bank or credit card accounts.

They would be imposed on civil standards of proof by courts, which would have to be satisfied the moves were proportionate and took into account the human rights of people affected. As with Asbos, breaches of the restrictions would constitute a criminal offence and would carry a maximum penalty of five years in jail.

The Home Office, which calculates that organised crime costs the country £20bn a year, says police have identified "over 1,000 individuals of interest" that could face the new orders. Mr Reid said: "The proposals we are putting forward are designed to prevent these criminals from operating on UK soil, to disrupt their activities, target them more effectively and make it harder for them to evade detection." Restrictions could also be placed on companies suspected of "facilitating organised crime".

The Home Office is also calling for improved data sharing between the public and private sector on suspected fraudsters, such as greater co-operation between police and the Department for Work and Pensions to detect the fraudulent use of national insurance numbers. And it is proposing a new offence of encouraging or assisting a criminal act to make it easier to bring to justice those involved in the margins of organised crime.

Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: "The Government is now suggesting using a system designed to deal with young tearaways to tackle international criminal rackets run by the 'Tony Sopranos' of this world. At first glance this looks like the worst kind of half-baked gimmick based on a lazy view that the only way to fight crime is to circumvent the criminal justice system."

David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, said: "This looks like another measure to make up for the Government's failure to get sufficient prosecutions."

Mr Reid will set out his plans for the Home Office over the next week. He will announce proposals to overhaul its structure tomorrow, followed by moves to "rebalance" the criminal justice system towards the victims of crime. He is due to set out plans to reform the Immigration and Nationality Directorate early next week.

18 July 2006 The Independent

Melbourne: Police focus on next generation felons

TWO new police taskforces will investigate the organised crime syndicates that are planning to fill the void created by Melbourne's bloody underworld war. The units will be modelled on the Purana taskforce that has laid charges or made progress in 17 gangland killings, effectively breaking the underworld code of silence.

The head of crime tasked operations, Detective Superintendent Richard Grant, said police planned to operate three Purana-type investigation groups. The two new groups to work alongside Purana will be known as taskforces 400 and 500. Mr Grant said each would comprise about 50 staff and would be able to call on a pool of more than 30 investigative accountants, lawyers and analysts. "It will be a multi-disciplinary approach designed to identify organised crime targets, investigate their activities and identify their assets," he said.

Mr Grant said the taskforces would work with other government agencies, including the Tax Office, to try to strip suspects of their profits. They will also use the coercive powers of the chief examiner's office to compel suspects to answer questions in secret interrogation hearings. Mr Grant said police were aware that criminal groups were positioning themselves to take over areas once dominated by gangsters who have been killed or jailed during Melbourne's underworld war. "We are in the target development phase of identifying the suspects that we should concentrate on. We will be moving on the next generation and established networks."

Mr Grant said police needed an accurate criminal intelligence bank to anticipate which criminals were likely to become major influences in Melbourne's gangland. Police say the profits from drug trafficking mean little-known criminals can became major influences in months. Mr Grant said the crime department would become more flexible and equipped to handle complex organised crime investigations and to move on the next generation of drug entrepreneurs.

The new strategy means that as many as 50 police could investigate one suspect, a small group or a major syndicate. They will also investigate lawyers, accountants and financial advisers who are suspected of helping criminals launder funds to avoid asset seizure.

As part of the crime department restructure, eight squads — organised crime, tactical response, Asian, prison, homicide cold case, missing persons, fraud and casino — were closed two weeks ago to free detectives for new investigations. Senior police say the work of the closed squads will continue to be investigated by detectives.

But Police Association secretary Senior Sergeant Paul Mullett said the crime department restructure was "introduced by stealth to an artificial deadline". "There has been no research conducted into how it will affect workloads and service delivery," he said. He said there were some good initiatives in the new model but there was a need for greater investment in technology such as listening devices and phone taps.

The Purana taskforce has persuaded several insiders to provide information on Melbourne's gangland war and on Friday arrested a man over the murder of gangster Mark Mallia, whose burnt body was found on August 18, 2003, in Sunshine.
Damian Cossu, 30, was arrested at gunpoint in Sydney and extradited to Melbourne where he was remanded in custody over the murder. Cossu, of Bonnyrigg in Sydney's west, appeared briefly in court yesterday and showed no reaction as he was remanded to appear again on October 9.

Purana taskforce detectives arrested a second man about 3pm yesterday in Sunshine in relation to Mallia's murder. Christopher Orfanidis, 22, of Ardeer, was charged with murder in an out-of-sessions hearing last night. He was remanded to appear in the Melbourne Magistrates Court at 10am today. Mallia's charred body was found in a wheelie bin left in West Sunshine on August 18, 2003. He was identified by a tattoo on his shoulder.

The Age (www.age.com.au) July 18, 2006

16 July 2006

NI: Organised crime report published

A report on organised crime (.pdf, right-click for direct download) in Northern Ireland has been published by the House of Commons Northern Ireland Affairs Committee.
The report is the result of more than six months of meetings to take evidence from a wide range of sources. These include the police, Assets Recovery Agency and customs officials. The report will comment on the extent of organised crime and how effective measures taken by the police and government agencies to combat it are.

BBC NI's Home Affairs Correspondent Vincent Kearney said most interest will focus on what is said about the IRA - if its members are still heavily involved in crime, and if so, if their involvement is authorised by the organisation's leadership.
The British and Irish governments will hope the committee reaches the same conclusion as the last report by the IMC, that while IRA members are still involved, it is for personal gain and the organisation is moving away from crime.

Close attention will also be paid to what is said about loyalist paramilitaries. One of the committee members is the Ulster Unionist MP Lady Sylvia Hermon. Last month, she criticised the decision to allow David Ervine, the leader of the PUP, which is linked to the UVF, to join her party's Stormont assembly group. A conclusion that the UVF is still actively involved in crime would cause more unease for Lady Hermon. (BBC News, Wednesday 5 July 2006)

Full text of the report (PDF).