28 November 2006

Toronto mobsters see their chance

It's not all gloom and doom as Greater Toronto Area mobsters huddle in local social clubs to discuss the impact of the largest Mafia bust in Canadian history.

The RCMP takedown of 73 alleged members of the Montreal-based Rizzuto crime family last week has created an opportunity for more business and less competition for organized criminals in Toronto, often seen as the Second City of the Canadian underworld, local mob experts say. Warrants are outstanding for another 18 accused members of the Montreal organization, believed by police to be the richest mob group in the country. "The shift of power will come over to Toronto," says one local police expert, who says the Canadian underworld pecking order has been upset. "Who's in charge?" he asked. "This could lead to violence."

Many mobsters in the GTA area who aren't connected to the Rizzutos have sported outsized smiles since last week's massive RCMP bust, a police investigator says. "Now, everything's up for grabs," one investigator says. "You're seeing a lot of happy faces now." Tier-two mobsters now have an opportunity to move up to the big leagues in the cocaine-trafficking business that has long been dominated by the Montrealers, mob experts say.

Some 1,300 charges were laid last week against the Rizzuto crime group as part an operation dubbed "Project Colisée," in a reference to the ancient, crumbling Roman landmark. The RCMP-led crackdown included charges of gangsterism, drug smuggling, bookmaking, attempted murder, extortion and possession of restricted weapons. The Canada Revenue Agency says it is also going after 82-year-old Nick Rizzuto for $1.5 million in back taxes, alleging he ran an online-betting operation that netted $25 million a year.

For local mobsters connected to the Rizzutos, it's important now to maintain an appearance of calm, says Larry Tronstad, a private investigator with the Detek Investigative Group in Vaughan, and formerly an RCMP member of the elite Combined Forces Special Investigations Unit, which targets organized crime. Foreign cocaine wholesalers need to be reassured that they can continue to do business as usual, while local mobsters must be cautioned not to get too aggressive, experts say. "The biggest problem they have is keeping everybody calm on their supply side," Tronstad says.

While the Rizzuto crime group hasn't dominated the local mob scene, they have definitely had a major influence, experts say.
Francesco Arcadi, 53, arrested last week in a Quebec country cottage, sporting a camouflage jacket, was frequently seen in Woodbridge over the past year, visiting mob hangouts, including a members-only sports bar. Arcadi would fly to Toronto first-class with a portly Montrealer, who chauffeured him about in a rented sport utility vehicle as they visited GTA mobsters.
Nick Rizzuto's son, Vito, 60, lived in Montreal but ran GTA waste disposal and discount coffin businesses. He is now in custody in the U.S., where he faces a racketeering indictment for allegedly murdering three Bonanno crime family members in 1981 in New York.

"Arcadi was considered the face of the Rizzuto crime family on the street, after the arrest of Vito," says local author Antonio Nicaso, who has written more than a dozen books on organized crime, and who's now writing one on the Rizzuto crime family with Quebec journalist Andre Cedilot. Nick Rizzuto was so well-dressed in a tailored suit when he was arrested last week that there were rumours that he was tipped off to the busts. He had taken on a higher profile after Vito was extradited to the U.S. last August. Over the past few months, Nick Rizzuto was often seen in north Montreal, meeting with Arcadi at the Association de Cattolica Eraclea, a grungy coffee shop formerly known as the Cosenza Social Club. Nick Rizzuto's father-in-law, the late Antonio Manno, was considered the underworld boss of the town of Cattolica Eraclea in Sicily.

Here in the GTA, long-time underworld figures associated with the Rizzutos include a 76-year-old with a bad heart who would rather spend his winters in Florida; a 71-year-old Grade 5 dropout who collected workplace compensation benefits after claiming a construction injury; and a 77-year-old, who played host to Nick Rizzuto and Tommaso Buscetta of Sicily back in happier times, before the elder Rizzuto was locked up and Buscetta turned informer.

Such underworld veterans have seen rough times before, and take police busts as a cost of doing business, Tronstad said. He dismisses the idea that the Rizzuto crime family has been knocked out of business, either in Montreal or Toronto.
"I just don't believe for a second that these guys don't have a disaster plan," Tronstad says, noting that a mobster once told him, "Every once in a while, the quarterback gets hurt." It's possible to run a mob enterprise from prison, Tronstad says, adding he thinks the organization's replacement leaders will keep a low profile. "These guys will be reluctant to be seen out and about," he adds. "Now is not the time to be visible."

Cedilot says he expects new acting leaders of the Rizzuto organization to emerge, and struggle to stay low profile. "It's a pyramid," Cedilot says, adding that the organization relies heavily on professionals like lawyers and financial planners to maintain its power. Among the suspects charged last week in Project Colisée are 10 workers at Pierre Elliott Trudeau airport in Montreal and a Canada Border Services Agency employee, accused of fast-tracking drug couriers through customs.

There are plenty of GTA mobsters who aren't connected with the Rizzutos, experts say. York Region is home to at least a dozen fugitives wanted by Italy on anti-Mafia charges, according to York Region police. Some of the GTA mobsters who aren't connected to the Rizzutos are considered members of the Mafia group called the `Ndranghetta, whose origins are in southern Italy, while others are related to the Cuntrera-Caruana crime group, which has roots in Sicily.

Nicaso says local mobsters may be troubled to see that authorities have hit the Rizzuto organization with gangsterism charges, which bring mandatory prison time for crimes committed in aid of a criminal enterprise. In the past, they've been levelled only against native Manitoba Warriors and outlaw bikers. He said he expects a further wave of police arrests, followed by a further series of underworld adjustments, both in Montreal and the GTA. "This can be considered `Colisée One,'" Nicaso says, referring to the series of Godfather movies. "It's a neverending-story."

Toronto Star 27-11-06

25 November 2006

South crime lords see city as a ‘soft touch’

ORGANISED drug criminals from England are making a move on Inverness, viewing the traditionally low crime city as a “soft target”, police have warned. The region’s chief constable revealed that gangs from Liverpool and Manchester were bidding to take control of the city’s expanding drugs market.

The news comes as Scottish Executive figures released this week show a 6 per cent increase in gun crime in the Highlands, while Central, Dumfries and Galloway, and Fife have gone down by around 30 per cent. The region had nine incidents involving alleged “reckless conduct with firearms” — more than anywhere in Scotland except Lothian and Tayside. The Highlands is also the only area outside Strathclyde to record a gun murder, after David Leask shot wife Donna then himself on Orkney in January.

Yesterday Danny Alexander, Lib-Dem MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, said he was deeply concerned by the reports. “Drugs are unwelcome from our communities in any circumstances, and the threat of associated organised, violent crime even more so,” he stated. “We must make sure the Highlands is not a soft target compared to the policing regime south of the border. Police forces from Scotland and England need to work closely to share intelligence and to make sure the problem is being tackled strongly at its source.” He will be raising the matter with Home Office ministers to make sure the devolution settlement is not hampering “vital co-operation”.

Northern Constabulary chief constable Ian Latimer revealed that, as a result of the organised gangs’ push on the region, the force was now reviewing its ability to deal with armed criminals. “Whether we like it or not, Scotland and the Highlands are being targeted by organised crime,” he said. “Organised crime groups from south of the border, places like Manchester and Merseyside, target here because they see us as an under-developed market — a soft target.”

Chief superintendent Bruce Duncan, Northern Constabulary’s head of operations, said police were taking measures in an attempt to prevent organised crime gaining a foothold in the area. “I think serious and organised crime is a force priority and we are very keen to ensure serious crime doesn’t get a hold in the Highlands,” he said. “We are viewed as a soft target, particularly in relation to drugs, but we have been trying in the last six months to increase our proactivity.”

There were 742 more crimes across the Highlands and Islands last year than in 2004/5, most of which were due to additional drugs arrests. “There has been a large increase in drugs cases in the last year,” the chief superintendent confirmed. “The drugs problem is something that we would encourage the public to help us with, and if they have any information to get in touch.”

He put the region’s increase in gun crime down to two incidents at the beginning of the year, when people from outside the area were arrested in Fort William and at Inverness train station, allegedly in possession of several firearms. “Figures for gun crime in the Highlands and Islands are very low and the increase at the beginning of the year would account for all of that increase,” he said. “We are not experiencing a dramatic increase in gun crime and we will do everything to ensure it stays as low as possible.”

Fergus Ewing, SNP MSP for Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber, believed there was a shortage of police officers in the area and called for reinforcements to combat the threat from organised crime. “The police do a great job, but in my opinion need more numbers — there may be about 20 police officers short of what is required,” he said. “The huge growth in population of residents, coupled with greater numbers who travel in to Inverness each day, are now placing burdens on police time which is putting them at full stretch.” “I am making representations to the justice minister to tackle this under-manning.”

Inverness Courier 24 November 2006

24 November 2006

China breaks more than 1,300 organized crime gangs

BEIJING, Nov. 24 (Xinhua) -- Chinese police have cracked more than 1,300 criminal gangs in the latest campaign against organized crime, authorities said.

Between March and October, Chinese prisons received 887 new inmates charged for gang crime, Hu Yiding, deputy director of prison administration under the Ministry of Justice said. By the end of October, police had referred 196 cases of alleged organized crime for prosecution and 1,347 crime gangs had been broken, according to the office for national campaign against organized crime. This shows that the campaign against organized crime has been effective, said a spokesman for the office.

In China, organized crime gangs are sometimes protected by officials through bribery, threat or other means. Prosecutors had been exposing the "umbrellas" covering gangs, with 33 cases uncovered involving 47 official, said Huang Hailong, deputy director of the investigation and supervision department of the Supreme People's Procuratorate. In the first ten months this year, 716 people were convicted of organized crime, including 711 charged of organizing, leading or taking part in organized crime gangs and five of cover-up and connivance, Gao Jinghong, deputy director of the office and a judge of the Supreme People's Court. "The number will be much larger if we consider convicts of other criminal charges from the crime gangs," he said.

Imprisonment over five years, life sentence and death sentence for the organized crime convicts account for 51.37 percent, 34 percent more than other crimes for the same period, Gao said. Meanwhile, police put 3.75 million criminal cases on file for investigation in the first ten months, 41,000 fewer, or 1.1 percent down, from the same period last year and the number of cases resolved increased by 113,000 to 2.21 million, the office said. The number of severe violent cases including murder, rape and arson respectively dropped by 13.8 percent, 5.9 percent, 13.8 percent in the first ten months. "After the crackdown of crime gangs, the social life and security order have evidently improved in some areas," the office spokesman said.

After Beijing police broke the 17-member-gang headed by Lei Nagang, in suburban Beijing, which long haunted the local people by racketeering and fighting, local police station did not receive report of criminal cases for consecutive 161 days in the first eight months this year, the spokesman said. "In general, public security has been relatively stable this year," a spokesman for the office said.

The Supreme People's Court is supervising 63 major organized crime cases and paying close attention to the trial progress of these cases.

Xinhua 2006-11-23

23 November 2006

Organized crime task force gets $400K boost

Manitoba's organized crime task force received a cash infusion Wednesday, when the provincial government announced it will double its funding for the force to $800,000 next year from $400,000 this year.

Justice Minister Dave Chomiak did not provide specifics about how the money will be spent, but did say one way to fight organized crime is by out-organizing the criminals. "The most effective response to organized crime is organized justice," he said in a release. "Organized crime in 2006 is much different than it was even 10 years ago," Winnipeg Police Service Supt. Gord Schumacher told the news conference where the funding was announced. "Many of the groups are sophisticated, strategic and take advantage of the most modern of technologies that are available. We have to do the same and them some."

Manitoba RCMP's commanding officer, Assistant Commissioner Darrell Madill, said the money will not go toward hiring more investigators, but will be spent on funding operational costs, such as more complex undercover investigations. "I don't need to tell you about the insidious nature of organized crime in Manitoba. There is not a community in this province that's not impacted by organized crime and their influences," Madill said. "The money that's provided today will be a concrete demonstration by the province of Manitoba in working with our front-line investigators to double their efforts and concentrate on the disruption of organized crime groups and their influences."

The Integrated Organized Crime Task Force in Manitoba includes investigators from the RCMP, the Winnipeg police, the Brandon police and other municipal police agencies.

Chomiak said the government also plans to introduce legislation to strengthen the provincial witness protection program.

CBC 22 November 2006

22 November 2006

Police Dismantle Traditional Italian-based Organized Crime in Montréal

MONTRÉAL, November 22, 2006 – This morning, the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU) completed the first stage of one of the most important police operations in the history of Canada with the arrest of 73 people including Nicolo Rizzuto Sr., Francesco Arcadi, Francesco Del Balso, Paolo Renda, Rocco Sollecito and other associates. This major international investigation, named Project Colisée, highlighted the group’s criminal activity and revealed the many tentacles of Traditional Italian-based Organized Crime.

This Project of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit was carried out by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, with the co-operation of the Sûreté du Québec, the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal, the Canadian Border Services Agency, the Service de protection des citoyens de Laval, Canada Revenue Agency and other partners.

More than 90 searches took place this morning in the Montréal and Laval region. More than 700 police officers were involved. The purpose of these searches was to gather evidence related to proceeds of crime as well as other evidence incriminating the accused.

Essentially, Project COLISÉE revealed:

• That six individuals, Nicolo Rizzuto Sr., Paolo Renda, Rocco Sollecito, Francesco Arcadi, Francesco Del Balso et Lorenzo Giordano are part of a criminal organization whose primary activity is to commit or facilitate the commission of serious crimes such as the importation, exportation and traffic of controlled substances, bookmaking, extortion and possession of proceeds of crime.

• • That the criminal organization has infiltrated the Montréal International Airport. Members of the criminal organization, and individuals acting in association with the organization, import and facilitate the importation of cocaine via the airport. A customs officer and a dozen current and old airport employees (airline and food services) are involved.

• That members of the criminal organization, and individuals acting in association with the organization, conspired to import 1,300 kg of cocaine by container. A quantity of 300 kg, representing the first shipment out of a total of 1,300 kg, was seized.

• That members of the criminal organization, and individuals acting in association with the organization, corrupted a second customs officer and conspired with this person to import an indeterminate quantity of drugs by container.

• That members of the criminal organization, and individuals acting in association with the organization, operate a bookmaking business online.

• That a member of the organization attempted to commit murder.

• That members of the criminal organization, and individuals acting in association with the organization, traffic in cocaine.

• That another separate organization exports marihuana to the United States using the Akwesasne reserve as a transit location for the drugs going to the United States and the money from the sale of marihuana entering Canada.

The 90 persons charged under this investigation face approximately 1,000 counts for offences committed between the period of 2003 and 2006. The suspects who were arrested are charged with importing, conspiracy to import and trafficking in drugs, conspiracy for the purpose of trafficking in drugs, criminal organization offence, bookmaking, possession of prohibited firearms, commission of offence for organized crime, extortion and attempted murders.

The assets of some of the persons charged were seized, including houses and bank accounts. More than CDN$3,116,380 and US$255,200 were seized in the course of the investigation.

RCMP press release 22 November 2006

No Consensus in Macedonia over Establishing a Special Prosecutor’s Office to Fight Organized Crime

Skopje. The question whether a special prosecutor’s office for combating organized crime and corruption will be formed in Macedonia, or the present decision envisaging the formation unit in the frames of the Macedonian prosecutor’s office, remains open, the Macedonian Utrinski Vesnik daily wrote today.
Experts are not unanimous on the issue, however, it is the politics that will arrive at the final conclusion, the newspaper stressed.
After innumerous sessions, the working team, which operates on the law on prosecutor’s office, could not come to an agreement on the issue. The Department for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption, headed by Jovan Ilievski, approved the idea of establishing a separate prosecutor’s office. Instead of working out a compromise, the draft version of the law includes both the conceptions - Department for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption and special prosecutor’s office as an alternative.

21 November 2006, FOCUS News Agency

Ireland: Crime gangs ‘intimidating’ firms

CRIME bosses are forcing legitimate businesses and business people to launder their cash, according to the head of the Criminal Assets Bureau.

Former chief of the CAB Felix J McKenna who will be speaking at a one-day conference next Tuesday, said crime gangs can intimidate individuals to make them launder cash for them. Speaking on RTÉ radio, he said that criminals can approach a large respectable firm of accountants and intimidate an individual accountant, he said.

Another speaker at the conference will be the president of the Irish Security Industry Association, Martin Stairs. He said the conference will explore options of how businesses can protect themselves. “We will discuss the latest trends and risks. We will focus on where companies should be targeting their resources,” he said.

“Screen your own staff. Companies should also look from inside out and not just outside in. Threats from inside can include employees, delivery people, ex-employees to name a few,” he said. He also stresses that companies should assess the risk of having cash versus credit facilities on the premises. “Change modus operandi,” he said. “Find out who has keys to premises and make a list of them.” he said. “Also do research on clients and services they provide.”

The security industry in Ireland is worth €400m-€500m, according to Mr Stairs said that each company business needs to have its own security measures in place relevant to its business. The one-day conference in the Davenport hotel, Dublin, on November 28 is organised by publishers First Law.

Barrister Paul Anthony McDermot will present a talk on criminal’s protection under the law. Head of fraud investigations at Axa Insurance Willie McGee will discuss organised crime and the link to business vulnerability. Identity theft, pilferage, infiltrating retail sectors by gang members, insurance scams, credit card fraud and internet scams will also be discussed at the conference.

irishexaminer.com 21 November 2006

20 November 2006

Call for Papers: Crime and Justice: In the Global and in the Local

For its' Annual Meeting 2007 (November 14-17, Atlanta) the American Society of Crimonology has issued a Call for Papers covering a broad range of themes including Organised Crime. Submission Deadline: 16 March 2007

New Zealand: Police crackdown on organised crime

Thirty four addresses were raided in and around the Hawke's Bay on Thursday morning as part of a crackdown on organised crime. The raids were the culmination of seven months work as part of Operation Nacre, which has seen more than 80 police officers involved in carrying out the drug-related search warrants. Search warrants were executed on homes in Napier, Hastings, Wairoa and Gisborne in connection with the sale of Class A, B and C drugs. About 50 people were arrested.

Detective Sergeant Warren Murdoch says of major concern was the discovery of eight stun guns, two sawn-off shotguns and a home-made explosive device. Explosive specialists from Wellington have been called in to deal with the explosive. Murdoch says it is the second operation coordinated by Hastings Police, following more than 40 arrests as part of Operation Oyster in August.

It also follows a third operation in July which targeted Wairoa Mongrel Mob. Detective Inspector Sam Aberahama says the district is committed to reducing the effects that organised crime's having on our community.

16 November 2006
Newstalk ZB

19 November 2006

Mafia 'strangle Italy prospects'

The mafia are the biggest threat to southern Italy's economic prospects, Prime Minister Romano Prodi has told a conference against organised crime. "Lawlessness is the greatest obstacle to economic growth in southern Italy," he told the three-day forum in Rome. Mr Prodi was briefly heckled by an audience member who said parliament must first purge itself of corrupt MPs.

Some 2,500 people have died in violence blamed on Italy's three main mafia groups in the last 10 years. According to the organisers of the anti-mafia forum in Rome, politicians have failed to tackle the problem. Top politicians, senior judges, police and security officials and civil society groups were expected to be among the 2,500 participants at the conference.

An escalating turf war between mafia gangs in the Italian city of Naples has led to recent calls for the army to be deployed. "No-one talks about the mafia except in emergencies, as in Naples recently," Lorenzo Frigerio of the anti-mafia group Libera told the AFP news agency. "You forget that it is a permanent presence in the country and that it has not missed the train of globalisation," Mr Frigerio said. He added that the issue had been hardly mentioned during the election campaign earlier this year.

Mr Prodi told the forum: "Arresting the mafia chiefs is not enough, we must strike the organizations at their heart." "More than once I've had to throw up my hands with foreign businessmen, who have refused to invest in the south because there weren't enough guarantees," he said. As Mr Prodi described his government's plans to combat the mafia, he was interrupted by an audience member, who said: "You could begin by throwing out of parliament MPs found guilty of corruption."

Last week, Italian police carried out a series of co-ordinated raids across the country, detaining more than 100 alleged mafia members suspected of drug-trafficking. In a separate development, a Sicilian judge on Wednesday sentenced dozens of associates of jailed mafia boss Bernardo Provenzano for a total of 300 years, Italy's Ansa news agency reported.

According to the BBC's David Willey, the Sicilian mafia remains hugely potent as it expands from its traditional drug trafficking to people smuggling and siphoning off millions of dollars from public works contracts.

BBC, Friday, 17 November 2006

18 November 2006

UK: Massive fake Bollywood DVD ring smashed

MORE than £5 million of counterfeit goods have been seized in west London - including the largest ever haul of pirate Bollywood DVDs.

About 1.75 million items of rip-off merchandise -an estimated 13 tonnes - were seized when officers raided 11 units at a self-storage site in Hayes this week. About 75 per cent of the 200,000 fake DVDs were Bollywood titles, others included the latest cinema releases and pornographic films. Other items included 1.5 million cover sleeves, blank DVDs, CDs, fake Nike and Timberland trainers and sports clothing. More than £6 million in cash was also seized. Four people were arrested and three cars seized, with more arrests expected to follow, Ealing Council said.

DVD titles seized included the latest Bollywood films Don, Umrojaan and Jaaneman and Hollywood blockbusters such as The Devil Wears Prada, Borat, and Saw III. Yet to be released films including this year's Christmas movie The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause were also found.

British Phonographic Industry general counsel Roz Groome said: "This is without doubt the biggest seizure of Bollywood film and DVDs. "Our record company members will no doubt be pleased to hear that this operation has disbanded what we allege was a highly organised and extensive illegal counterfeiting outfit."

Named "Operation Don" after the new Bollywood action blockbuster of the same name, the investigation followed months of investigation by the council's trading standards officers, police and the BPI. Councillor Will Brooks said film piracy was not a victimless crime and those who bought pirate DVDs supported organised crime. "Our officers have followed the chain of intelligence from the street sellers and market stalls to the very centre of packaging and distribution. Smashing this ring at its heart will have a major impact on the counterfeit market in West London and beyond," he said. "Film piracy may seem like a victimless crime but it has links to organised crime and other criminal activity including the drugs market, violence, benefit fraud, and the abuse of people who are forced to sell these items on the street."

Genuine items equivalent to those seized would have an estimated value of more than £5 million, the council said. While pirate DVDs would usually be sold for between £3 and £5 each, officers believe the trainers and clothing could have been passed off as genuine items and sold for close to the regular retail price.

Film piracy nets more than £270 million a year for criminals in the UK. Counterfeit DVDs and CDs are sold everywhere from ice cream vans through to barber's shops and pubs and clubs. It is an attractive trade for criminals who see it as a low risk, high profit industry. Gangs are thought to employ illegal immigrants trying to pay off their debts for a passage to the UK or to cover their lodgings. Counterfeiting has also been linked to terror organisations, which are said to use the trade in fake goods as a means of raising funds and laundering cash.

Friday 17th November 2006

14 November 2006

Spain: Authorities link organised crime and planning corruption in province of Cadiz

Investigators are looking into cases of developers purposefully building on land not designated for construction

Until now the phenomenon of illegal construction in the province of Cadiz was limited to a sprinkling of houses built by individuals, as either second homes, or, at the most, an investment for the future. Nevertheless the Cadiz Public Prosecution Department has detected the first links between organised crime and the real estate industry.
At the beginning of last week, ángel Núñez of the environmental crimes department, said that so far this year some 83 investigations into planning offences had been opened in the Cadiz area, a figure that did not include the cases being dealt with by the prosecution departments in the Campo de Gibraltar area and Jerez, indicating a significant increase on the 102 cases investigate in the entire province in 2005.

While illegal construction by individuals is a serious problem (although the majority of municipalities aim to solve this by including the buildings in question in the new development plans) the appearance of evidence of criminal organisations benefitting from the real estate boom is far more worrying. “I don’t know whether we should talk about organised crime, but we are seeing greater levels of organisation. Investigations are looking into developers who purposefully build on land not designated for construction”, said Nuñez.

Furthermore the Prosecution Department is working on cases of drug dealers who could be investing their profits in illegal construction, either as a way of money laundering or of increasing their assets.

In one operation earlier this year, which broke up a ring of drug dealers based in Conil, investigators discovered how the ringleaders were building two mansions, valued at 900,000 and 350,000 euros respectively, on land not designated for construction.

Several other investigations still open are looking into connections between municipal officials and planning offences. “We’re far from Marbella, but if we are not careful, anything could reach this area”, warned Núñez. One minor example already revealed is the case of the former municipal architect in Grazalema who was arrested recently in connection with demanding money in exchange for contracts for controversial public works. The Department has pointed out that this is not the only case of illegitimate income earned from “municipal employees conniving with business people”.

Finally Núñez explained how foreigners are often the victims of cases of fraud, when they have bought property or land “believing that it was legal”. Many of them are attracted by the lower prices advertised in the area, compared with other tourist destinations, for example the Malaga coastline.

“There are also cases of people who know exactly what they are buying but are convinced by the developer that nothing will happen”. This message seems to have stuck in the province recently. “The lack of awareness of the local people of the damage an illegal property can cause has allowed the problem to spread”, added Núñez.

10 November 2006

13 November 2006

Italian mafia taking root in Germany

BERLIN: Italian organised crime is gaining a strong foothold in Germany and has invested proceeds of its illegal activities in energy companies listed in Frankfurt and Russian gas monopoly Gazprom, a newspaper reported yesterday. Citing a secret study by Germany’s foreign intelligence service (BND), the Berliner Zeitung said the Calabrian mafia, known as the 'Ndrangheta, was using Germany to invest cash from drugs and weapons smuggling.

The group had invested double-digit millions of its profits in German hotels, restaurants and real estate, especially in former communist eastern Germany and along the Baltic coast, the paper quoted the study as saying. A BND spokesman said yesterday that the agency would probably not be able to comment on the newspaper report until tomorrow.

According to the BND study, two ‘Ndrangheta clans were especially entrenched in Germany and were smuggling weapons from Switzerland and Germany in close co-operation with Albanian mafia groups, the paper said. As part of its money laundering activities, the ‘Ndrangheta had also bought up large packages of shares in companies listed on the Frankfurt stock exchange, particularly energy firms, the BND study said. Some clans had also invested in shares in Gazprom, in which German gas market leader E.ON-Ruhrgas has a 6.4% stake. E.ON-Ruhrgas could not be reached for comment.

The BND study levelled sharp criticism at the Italian authorities, saying their efforts to tackle organised crime were inadequate, the Berliner Zeitung said. On the one hand, laws introduced by the government of former prime minister Silvio Berlusoni had made fighting organised crime harder and on the other the ‘Ndrangheta had succeeded in infiltrating political and judicial bodies, the study said.

– Reuters
12 November, 2006

12 November 2006

Italian judge held on crime links, two more under suspicion

ROME : An Italian judge has been arrested in the southern Calabria region on charges of having ties to organised crime, and two others are under suspicion.

Patrizia Serena Pasquin, head of the civil division of the court in Vibo Valentia, is suspected of corruption, forgery and fraud on behalf of the Mancuso "cosca", or clan, one of the most active criminal groups in the 'ndrangheta, the Calabrian equivalent of the Sicilian Mafia. Her two colleagues, who have not been identified, are suspected of aiding her, the ANSA news agency reported Friday.

Besides the judges, a total of 33 lawyers, businessmen and shopkeepers are under investigation by the office fighting anti-organised crime in Salerno, near Naples, in the Campania region. Of these, 15 were detained Friday at the request of the prosecutor, Luigi Apicella. The inquiry began two years ago in Calabria but was moved to another region after it was revealed that local judges might be implicated.

Pasquin is suspected of having done favours for the Mancuso clan when tourist infrastructures were being built in the Vibo region. According to ANSA her name regularly cropped up during a trial in progress involving the Mancuso clan in respect of "contacts" that clan boss Diego Mancuso sought to bring into play to recover goods confiscated by the authorities under anti-mafia legislation.

Pasquin is an experienced judge who began her career in 1980 and has alternated between criminal and civil courts. She conducted the early part of the investigation in 1994 of Nicholas Green, an American child fatally injured during an attempted robbery of a car on a Calabrian road. Initially acquitted, those responsible were given long jail terms in 1998.

The 'ndrangheta specialises in drug-trafficking and protection rackets but is also active in real estate. Its base is Calabria but its tentacles extend to North and South America, Albania, Turkey and north Africa, and it has branches in Belgium, France, Germany, The Netherlands and even Australia.

AFP 10 November 2006

09 November 2006

Police gangland raids to net millions

DETECTIVES are set to launch an unprecedented swoop on Melbourne's mogul-gangsters after identifying concealed asset trails of more than $100 million. The Purana gangland taskforce, backed by forensic accountants, has spent more than a year tracing secret cash flows, concealed investments and dummy companies that have been used to hide the massive profits made by major drug syndicates.

The analysis has for the first time given police an accurate overview of the size of the organised crime black economy — a figure much larger than previous informed estimates. The taskforce has found that runaway drug tycoon Tony Mokbel is at least twice as wealthy as first thought. Detectives have identified assets worth $40 million connected with the Mokbel empire. They believe much of the money has been spread through a network of family members and friends who have acted as informal agents. But they also believe the planning for the distribution of the assets was completed using professional financiers.

Police are planning a series of raids to identify, freeze and finally sell the Mokbel fortune. While Mokbel has successfully moved some of his assets offshore, police believe that by destroying his Australian asset base he is more likely to surface. Last month police successfully applied to the Supreme Court to have Mokbel deemed convicted under the Confiscation Act of three state-based drugs charges laid in 2001. While Mokbel was convicted of federal cocaine charges earlier this year, the latest moves enable his assets to be sold under state confiscation laws.

Mokbel jumped bail and fled overseas in March this year, just days before he was found guilty of Commonwealth cocaine trafficking charges and sentenced to a minimum of nine years' jail. In a Purana raid in September police recovered around $1 million in cash and jewels buried in a Parkdale backyard. They found $350,000 in cash, 18 watches, 61 loose items of jewellery and 33 jewellery boxes concealed in PVC pipes that they allege were hidden on behalf of the Mokbel family.

In October police seized a Ferrari owned by a man alleged to be a partner in a Mokbel company. He was charged with four counts of obtaining financial advantage by deception and one of making a false document as part of a Purana money laundering investigation.

Detective Superintendent Richard Grant said police plan to brief specialist groups such as the Law Institute, accountancy firms and council planning units on how organised crime groups manipulate professionals to assist in concealing assets. He said police had begun identifying the assets of up to 50 suspected major crime figures and plan to use strengthened asset seizure laws to freeze their profits. "It is no longer enough to just lock up some of these people. Many are prepared to risk long stints in jail if they know that on their release they can live million-dollar lifestyles," he said. "Our plan is to dismantle these groups so that when they do the time they will be released to nothing."

Superintendent Grant refused to outline the police asset raids timetable and said it was impossible to say the value of the assets that would eventually be forfeited. "It is enough to say we will come knocking when we are ready. We will follow due process and we are certainly here for the long haul."

The Age.com.au
November 6, 2006

Piracy stats don't add up

A confidential briefing for the Attorney-General's Department, prepared by the Australian Institute of Criminology, lashes the music and software sectors. The draft of the institute's intellectual property crime report, sighted by The Australian shows that copyright owners "failed to explain" how they reached financial loss statistics used in lobbying activities and court cases.

Figures for 2005 from the global Business Software Association showing $361 million a year of lost sales in Australia are "unverified and epistemologically unreliable", the report says. BSAA chairman Jim Macnamara said the figure was an extrapolation, but other studies had supported it. "They're entitled to say they're not convinced, but not necessarily entitled to say it's unverified," he said.

The study, which says some of the statistics used by copyright owners are "absurd", will be redrafted after senior researchers disagreed with its conclusions. Painting a picture of an industry seething with competitive jealousies, the report describes how "well-connected Canberra-based lobbyists" fight for government attention and police time on piracy.

Researcher Alex Malik, working for the AIC under a commission from the Attorney-General's Department and IP Australia, was particularly critical of the use of statistics in court. "Of greatest concern is the potentially unqualified use of these statistics in courts of law," the draft reads. Mr Malik declined to speak to The Australian, citing a confidentiality agreement.

Institute principal criminologist Russell Smith said the report was an early draft that was being edited by the agency. "We wouldn't use language like that because it's not accurate, it's hyperbolic and overblown," he said. "It was a very early draft written by a consultant, and we would want a chance to revise it.

"We have an extensive quality control system in the institute, so that drafts are read by most senior staff. "The report hasn't been finalised. It's still being edited and revised." Copyright owners have lobbied for several years to have a study done, hoping their figures will result in more law enforcement action on piracy.

The report, intended as a confidential government briefing, casts doubt on the methodology of some industry piracy studies. It says the manager of the recording industry's anti-piracy arm, Music Industry Piracy Investigations, did not know how piracy estimates were calculated, as that work was done by the International Federation of Phonographic Industries in London.

Copyright owners often use street-value estimates to calculate losses, but this assumes that every person who bought pirated goods would otherwise have paid for a legitimate item, the report notes. MIPI manager Sabiene Heindl defended the figures, which she said were based on local survey, research and seizure statistics, but compiled in Britain. "The reason I wasn't personally aware of how they are prepared is because they are compiled by the IFPI," she said. "They have a group that has been doing this for some time."

Ms Heindl said the report was not intended to be made public. "We haven't had an opportunity to see the report," she said. "My understanding is it wasn't to be a public document and that any submissions were to be considered confidential."

The most recent locally commissioned study was in the late 1990s, Mr Macnamara said. Many copyright holders claimed links between piracy and organised crime, but AIC researcher had found nothing to support that view. "Either there is no evidence of any links between piracy and organised crime or it is simply beyond the capacity of rights holders to identify these links," he wrote, adding that he was concerned about the way piracy figures were being used. "It is inappropriate for courts and policy makers to accept at face value currently unsubstantiated statistics. "Either these statistics must be withdrawn or the purveyors of these statistics must supply valid and transparent substantiation."

Some industry groups were reluctant to work with researchers, because of concern about data leaking to competitors. Much of that has to do with a fight over access to resources. "There is a perception among some rights holders that they are in competition with each other over limited federal government resources," the report says. "They fear that if they reveal the nature of their relationships with government, such as the placement of well-connected Canberra lobbyists, they will jepordise their advantage."

The Australian
NOVEMBER 07, 2006

CIROC Seminar: 'East meets West' 20 December 2006

On May 1, 2004 10 new countries from Central and East Europe joined the European Union, on January 1, 2007 two more countries will follow them. This enlargement provided not only new economic possibilities, but also created new opportunities for organized crime. Politicians, journalists and scholars emphasize the fear that West Europe is about to ‘import’ crime from the East Europe. But also West European criminals ‘discover’ new illicit markets and clients in East Europe. How serious is the problem of import/export of organized crime to- and from East Europe? This is the subject which Dutch and East European criminologists will discuss during the present CIROC seminar.


9.30 – 10.00 Coffee

10.00 – 10.15 Opening – Prof. Dr. Henk van de Bunt (EUR/ CIROC)

Morning session
The criminal threat of the EU enlargement – myth and reality (chair: Prof. Dr. Henk van de Bunt, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam/ CIROC)

10.15 – 11.00 The criminal import/export between East and West Europe – Dr. Dina Siegel (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, CIROC)

11.00 – 11.45 Transnational Organised Crime, illegal markets and human trafficking from Serbia to the Western Europe - Prof. Dr. Vesna Nikolic-Ristanovic, (Victimology Society of Serbia.)

11.45 – 12.30 Discussion

12.30 – 13.30 Lunch

Afternoon session
Situation in Eastern Europe – crime for export? (chair: Dr. Dina Siegel, VU/ CIROC)

13.30 – 14.15 Bulgarian Organized Crime – Tihomir Bezlov (Center for Study of Democracy, Sofia, Bulgaria)

14.15 – 15.00 The evolution of Albanian organized crime groups in Belgium and the Netherlands: what has changed since 1996? – Jana Arsovska (Catholic University of Leuven)

15.00 – 15.30 Koffie / coffee break

15.30 – 16.15 The view of Dutch law enforcement - mr. Jan Boersma (Nationale Recherche, VU)

16.15 –16.45 Discussion

16.45 – 17.30 Drink

For more informatio visit the CIROC website.

Call for Papers Organised Crime in Asia: Governance and Accountability

Organised crime phenomena in Asia will be the focus of a special edition of the Asian Journal of Criminology to be published in September 2007.

The rapid forces of globalisation and its impact on the socio-political and economic order have provided an impetus to reconceptualise our understanding of the dynamics of organised crime as a latent social force.

This raises several important issues, both conceptual and empirical, for discussion which the journal seeks to address. Specifically, we would be interested to receiving submissions on the following or related topics:

• Organised crime and the State (eg. politics, security, accountability, governance)
• Organised crime and terrorism
• Organised crime, international law and transnational policing

The journal has appointed Dr. Mark Craig and Dr Narayanan Ganapathy as guest editors for this special edition. Abstracts of 250 words should reach the guest editors by 31 December, 2006. Full papers will be required by 30 April, 2007 and publication will be subject to normal peer review process. A colloquium has been tentatively organised for June, 2007 in Singapore. Further details will be available at a later date. Please see: Asian Journal of Criminology

For more information:
Dr Mark Craig, School of Justice, Faculty of Law, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia: m.craig@qut.edu.au
Dr Narayanan Ganapathy, Department of Sociology, National University of Singapore: socng@nus.edu.sg

04 November 2006

FBI Busts Credit Card Cybergang

An alleged credit card thief, who has been identified as using the online handle "John Dillinger," has emerged as a suspect in an aggressive FBI law enforcement action to be announced Friday. The action, dubbed Operation Cardkeeper, has resulted in 17 arrests of hackers and carders this week in the United States and Poland. The investigation is also focusing on three suspects in Romania who were questioned this week by Romanian authorities, as well as U.S. suspects in seven states. Authorities say more arrests are likely.

A law enforcement source told Wired News that Dillinger and other Americans indicted in the case received stolen credit card numbers from Romanian phishers and others, then used the numbers to purchase items they later resold. According to an indictment unsealed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Virginia, the person identified as using the Dillinger nickname was seized in San Diego in June on unrelated charges before being transferred to Virginia where he faces at least five counts of identity theft and access device fraud for using stolen credit card numbers belonging to Capital One bank customers.

Wired News interviewed a carder using that nick earlier this year, who spoke on condition of anonymity. In the interview, the carder said that three Romanian phishers contacted him in 2004 looking for partners to cash out U.S. Bank accounts, using account and PINs they obtained through phishing.

The indictment doesn't mention U.S. Bank or other activities that Dillinger discussed with Wired News. Authorities say the indictment does not reflect everything that went into the charges against him. Dillinger likely faces two to five years in prison if convicted. He has a Nov. 13 hearing scheduled in Richmond, Virginia.

In addition to Dillinger, three other Americans and 11 Poles were arrested. The Americans are Dana Carlotta Warren, 29, of Atlanta, and Zanadu Lyons, 24, and Frederick Hale, 27, both of Columbus, Ohio. The suspects were caught with cards and MSR-206 machines used to encode data onto blank credit cards. "Zanadu (Lyons) was attempting to flush counterfeit credit cards down the toilet when authorities were attempting to execute the search warrant," the law enforcement source said.

According to the source, the Richmond FBI and the U.S. Attorney's office launched Cardkeeper around August 2004 after seeing a lot of theft involving Richmond-area banks. They were surprised at what they found once they started tracing the source of the stolen card numbers. "Just in Virginia we identified tens of thousands of compromised credit card numbers, maybe over 100,000," he said. "I don't know that anyone has ever tallied that up. There were also several thousand compromised identities (that we were seeing) trafficking over the internet."

The thieves obtained credit and debit card numbers through phishing scams and by hacking into databases, then distributed the numbers to accomplices through CcpowerForums, Darkmarket and other carding sites devoted to international cybercrime.

Among the Polish suspects arrested are Mateusz Rymski, aka "Blindroot," who the FBI identifies as a leader of the ring. The source said Rymski hacked into third-party web servers and then rented their illicit access to other criminals to host their phishing pages or use as a proxy to hide their trails. "He was selling root access to multiple Romanians who were engaged in phishing and credit card fraud," said the source. "And the Romanians were distributing compromised credit card numbers on the order of the thousands, if not higher than that."

The Romanians are also suspected of writing keystroke-logging software to collect card numbers and other data from infected computers.

3 November 2006

03 November 2006

Marshals Net Nearly 11,000 Fugitives

WASHINGTON -- Nearly 11,000 sex offenders, gang members and other fugitives were swept up in what the Justice Department on Thursday called a sting targeting the "worst of the worst" criminals on the run.

Last week's roundup, led by the U.S. Marshals Service, included Allen Marksberry, an unregistered sex offender in Rickman, Tenn., who was baby-sitting several young children when he was arrested on Oct. 24. Also nabbed were Demetrius Avery Jackson, an accused cop killer in Birmingham, Ala., and Eric Dewayne Meneese, a Crips gang member, in Nashville, Tenn.

The weeklong sting, code-named Operation Falcon III, also led to the shooting death of a Georgia fugitive who was killed by authorities as he came out of his house, officials said. Additionally, the neighbor of a fugitive in Florida fired _ but missed _ police approaching her home. Both incidents are under investigation, said John F. Clark, director of the Marshals Service.

The roundup, in 24 states east of the Mississippi River, targeted "the worst of the worst fugitive felons in the country," Attorney General Albert Gonzales said at a Washington news conference. "America's neighborhoods are safer today, thanks to Operation Falcon III," Gonzales said. Two earlier stings _ Falcons I and II _ were held in April over the last two years. Gonzales and Clark denied that next week's elections played any part in scheduling the latest crackdown.

"I can assure you that the coordination of getting 3,000-plus officers and agents, and everybody together to do this, just takes a lot of coordination," Clark said, adding that he wanted to do the roundup in the fall _ before the winter weather hit. In all, Gonzales said officials caught 10,773 fugitives _ including 1,659 sex offenders, 364 gang members and thousands of others sought on kidnapping, robbery, burglary, carjacking and weapons charges. More than 230 weapons were seized.

Those totals represent a fraction of doors knocked on, liquor store drive-bys, construction site surveillances and tips chased down by agents during the weeklong sweep. Finding the fugitives _ even at their homes in the early-morning hours _ proved to be a hit-or-miss mission for the federal, state and local authorities. A six-hour sting in Washington, D.C., last Thursday morning, for example, netted none of the accused drug dealers sought by a team of seven agents from the U.S. Marshals, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, State Department and the city's Metropolitan Police Department.

"He was there a week or so ago," muttered Marshals Inspector Robert Hoffmaster, after a pre-daybreak search of a house for an accused drug dealer. In upstate New York, some fugitives tried to hide in unusual places. "We grabbed one guy out of the shower," said Joe Ciccarelli, supervisor of the U.S. Marshals fugitive task force in New York's northern district. "We found people hiding in between insulation, rolled up in rugs, inside of cabinets, inside of closets that a person shouldn't be able to fit in, but they end up fitting in and we have had to call the fire department to get them out."

Of the sex offenders nabbed, 971 had failed to register with authorities as required by law _ what Gonzales called the largest number ever captured in a single law enforcement effort. Gonzales said prosecutors likely would seek to charge some of them under the 2006 Adam Walsh Act. That law, approved by Congress last summer, created federal penalties for sex offenders who fail register with communities. The law was named for six-year-old Adam Walsh, who was abducted from a Florida shopping mall and murdered in 1981.

Falcon III showed the Marshals "have proven their extraordinary ability to quickly capture thousands of sexual predators," said Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Normally, the Marshals regional task forces round up about 1,000 fugitives each week, officials said. An estimated 1 million fugitives are on the loose nationwide.

The Associated Press
Thursday, November 2, 2006; 9:20 PM

Russia: Witnesses to Receive Bodyguards

Witnesses whose testimony in court could cost them their lives will get bodyguards and possibly plastic surgery under a witness protection program approved by the Cabinet. Other protective measures include relocation and bulletproof vests. The $35.5 million program is meant to shore up the country's shaky criminal justice system, the government said this week on its web site.

Legislators have wanted a witness protection program for years. The State Duma passed measures in 1995 and 1997 that would have created one, but President Boris Yeltsin vetoed both bills. Then, in 2004, President Vladimir Putin signed the law on government defense of victims, witnesses and other participants in legal proceedings. But human rights activists and crime experts say that the law opens the door to police abuse and that the government is unable, in any event, to offer witnesses much protection.

The Interior Ministry, the Federal Security Service, the State Customs Committee and the Federal Drug Control Service would be responsible for protecting witnesses.

The Moscow Times
Friday, November 3, 2006. Issue 3533. Page 2.

SA: Crime stats indicate broad, steady progress

Discussing the recently released crime statistics, made public as part of the South African Police Service (SAPS) annual report, Business Against Crime CEO Siphiwe Nzimande says that the publication of the numbers is crucial to inform the understanding of reported crime in the country, the strategic and operational priorities of the SAPS and underscore the successes of the SAPS.

“The newly released crime statistics indicate that steady progress continues to be made in the national fight against crime across a broad front, building on the achievement over the previous few years,” he adds.

These positive tendencies are, however, counter- balanced by negative trends in specified crime categories, especially regarding serious and violent crime instigated by organised crime syndicates. “Negative trends have continued beyond the reporting period and have the potential to overshadow successes achieved in the year under review in the national fight against crime,” Nzimande comments.

The report indicates an ongoing high level of serious and violent crime in the business sector, including robberies undertaken by well-armed, highly organised groups on the cash-in-transit, gaming and retail sectors. Nzimande says that both the number of aggravated robberies and the financial losses remain a serious cause for concern. “However, owing to proactive and decisive action taken by both businesses and government, the number of fatalities and deaths in these robberies are being reduced.” The Industry Alignment Forum, which is facilitated by Business Against Crime, categorised business robberies, syndicated theft and commercial crime as ‘common threats’, as a result of the ongoing prevalence of these crimes.

The partnership is now poised to make a meaningful impact on these crimes in the coming months, particularly since government recently prioritised aggravated robberies for special focused action. “The real challenge is to reduce the overall levels of crime and violence. It is incumbent that all South Africans work together with government in eradicating the scourge of crime and violence in our society, while promoting good moral values,” Nzimande urges.

Business Against Crime and the business sector have welcomed the decision by President Thabo Mbeki to re-energise the partnership between business and government at the highest possible level with respect to the national crime challenges. This, according to Nzimande, will create an environment for joint engagement between the leadership of the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster as well as representatives from the Business Working Group and Business Against Crime.

Business Against Crime is and has been involved in many crime-prevention programmes and initiatives throughout South Africa. The criminal-justice strengthening programme is designed to build and support the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, through the implementation of various initiatives founded by USAID. The Tiisa Thuto programme teaches nonviolent methods of conflict resolution and positive morality, including life skills and personal values, in schools to reduce crime and violence, while improving the standards of learning. The support programme for police stations aims to improve service delivery at police stations through effective management, best practices, skills and capacity development.

The commercial-crime programme has established specialised commercial crime court centres (SCCCCs) countrywide, staffed by specialists to ensure quick and appropriate senten- cing for the convicted. Four SCCCCs have been established in Tshwane, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth and Durban. Future courts of this kind will be established in Cape Town and Bloemfontein. Nzimande reports that the SCCCC initiative has achieved an average 98% conviction rate and the case-processing time has been reduced from 30 months, in 1999, to 14 months, last year.

One of the biggest initiatives is the organised crime programme, which aims to reduce large-scale syndicated crimes by removing the commercial benefit in the trade of stolen goods, as well as effective prosecution of offenders. The current focus is on vehicle theft and hijacking, cellphone theft and the theft of copper cables. This programme has resulted in significant improvement in business processes within the vehicle-management system, aimed at rooting out fraud and corruption and improving service delivery. It has been implemented throughout Gauteng and was initiated in the North West, Mpumalanga, the Eastern Cape and Kwazulu-Natal. “We have seen a 30% reduction in hijackings in Gauteng over the past year and have a coordinated approach to chop shop disruption operations supported by legislation,” Nzimande continues. Additionally, the programme has allowed for more control over the movement of so-called ‘vehicles in transit’, reducing the illegal registration of second-hand vehicles locally.

The correctional services support programme was introduced to the Department of Correctional Services in its quest to become one of the best in the world, delivering correctional services with integrity and excellence. The main objective of the project is to create a human rights environment in which persons under correction can be developed, resulting in their complete rehabilitation. In line with this, Business Against Crime is focused on the development and implementation of technology strategy, implementation of the integrated human resources strategy, and the development and implementation of the costing model.

Another initiative undertaken by Business Against Crime was the creation of an industry alignment forum, which seeks to align and enhance business-sector initiatives aimed at reducing crime and violence.

Mining Weekly 03-10-06

02 November 2006

Analysis: Naples, a city in the grip of the Camorra

If you want to know why Romano Prodi, the Italian Prime Minister, is considering sending in troops to Naples just ask Roberto Saviano, a 28 year old Neapolitan writer whose best selling novel Gomorra, came out in May. "Gomorra" is a play on the word "Camorra", the Naples network of Mafia clans, and the book pulls no punches in revealing how they operate — and naming names. As a result Signor Saviano is in fear of his life, and has been given round-the-clock police protection. His plight confirms what everyone in Naples already knows: that although the city is ostensibly run by the local authorities, the parallel power structure of the Camorra is all pervasive.

Even before he went into hiding with an armed guard Signor Saviano began to realise he had antagonised a deadly enemy with tentacles throughout the city when local shopkeepers and bar owners turned him away rather than risk punishment from local Mafia bosses by serving him. The Camorra, he says, has murdered "about 3,600 people" since he was born. Some run down housing estates in the suburbs, such as Scampia, are Mafia fiefdoms where the police hardly dare enter.

When I went to Scampia earlier this year after a particularly horrific series of murders — one Mafia victim was decapitated with a tile cutter and then burned in his car — my taxi driver refused to linger, saying he would pick me up later, "if you are still here". The Camorra offers its own social network, a sense of community, however perverted, and jobs of a kind for the unemployed young, mostly related to cigarette smuggling, drugs or petty crime.

Women are also part of this powerful hidden structure: whenever police try to arrest a Mafia boss in Naples, it is the women who obstruct them (and who in some cases take over the clans from their imprisoned husbands or brothers).

Much of the Camorra's power stems from drugs, above all heroine and cocaine. In Scampia, junkies openly inject themselves in the rubbish strewn underpasses. Most of the turf wars between the Mafia families revolve around the struggle to control the highly lucrative drugs market.

But the violence has seeped into the historic centre as well. This week a known mafioso was shot dead in full view of passers by near the Cathedral as he was coming out of bar. In the summer a Canadian tourist was shot in the leg by a stray bullet during a Mafia shootout, and an American tourist who gave chase to two muggers was set on by local people who sympathised with the criminals rather than the victim. Hotels have taken to handing guests plastic watches so they can leave their Rolexes in the hotel safe.

Naples remains a colourful, warm-hearted and vibrant city, with gems such as the San Carlo Opera and Capodimonte Museum. Its pizza (invented in Naples) is unsurpassed, and the views over the Bay of Naples are breathtaking.

Under Antonio Bassolino, the former mayor in the 1990s, the central Piazza del Plebiscito was cleared of cars to make a pedestrian area opposite the Royal Palace, crimes such as bag snatching were reduced, and historic buildings were restored. But even Signor Bassolino, now President of the Campania region, admits that the Mafia has re-established its grip and the city is sliding towards chaos, with piles of rotting rubbish in the streets and daily murders and muggings. "The Camorra, street crime and violence risk robbing us of our future and our children's future" he says.

Bringing in the army recalls the emergency in Sicily in 1992-98, when 150,000 soldiers were sent in to deal with Mob crimes. Signor Bassolino however would prefer more police on the streets rather than troops. A thousand extra police are to be deployed in a plan devised by Giuliano Amato, the Interior Minister, and Signor Prodi will travel to the city tomorrow for a summit with local leaders on the current "crime emergency". In the end, as Rosa Russo Jervolino, the current mayor, rightly says, "the roots of the problem are social and cultural... We must be able to offer our youngsters values, education and above all work opportunities which can give them a good quality of life".

The question is whether the Prodi government, already hard pressed to find cash to reduce Italy's huge budget deficit, can find the resources to underwrite long term reforms to give Naples jobs and hope while simultaneously taking immediate emergency measures to halt the wave of violence. "We must radically and permanently revisit the way we defend the safety of our citizens," Signor Amato said. "We want a true change of direction — for the first time we are betting everything on permanent measures, not temporary ones."

President Giorgio Napolitano, who is from Naples himself, expressed his "anguish", saying Naples was facing "a social and cultural emergency" as well as a criminal one. The Italian South is suffering however from a chronic lack of investment under successive governments of both Left and Right, despite numerous high minded projects for development of the Mezzogiorno. Meanwhile the situation on the ground spirals out of control: the latest deaths have taken the number of those killed in Naples and the surrounding province since the start of the year to 72, of which 50 are Camorra-linked .

Four thousand known mafiosi are active in and around Naples, and businesses pay an estimated €30 billion to the Camorra every year, with the situation aggravated by a controversial prisoner amnesty this summer in which 7,800 inmates were released from Naples' jails, many of them — obviously — mafiosi. Perhaps the authorities should have asked Roberto Saviano first if this was a wise move.


Italian PM weighs up military mission to Naples

The Prime Minister of Italy is considering sending the army to restore order to Naples, where a bloody crime spree has claimed seven lives since Friday. Romano Prodi was quoted by the Ansa news agency saying he was "making an assessment" of the long term benefits of deploying the military to quell a surge in violence believed to be related to rivalries within the Camorra, the Neapolitan branch of the Mafia. "This time the fight against crime will not be carried out to soothe public opinion for a few days or a few months, but it will be a permanent fight to bring safety to the citizens," he said.

Earlier, the Interior Minister, Giuliano Amato, said more than 1,000 police reinforcements would arrive in the southern city on November 9 to reinforce the local force of 13,000, which has been unable to rein in the recent violence. Signor Amato spoke after a 36-year old man was shot dead in a video games shop in Naples in what officials said appeared to be a Mafia-related murder. It was the fifth killing since Friday. Shortly after the announcement, two members of the Camorra were murdered in Torre del Greco, a small town near Naples in what police said was a settling of scores.

The possible deployment of the army comes after an appeal from the regional governor of Naples, Antonio Bassolino, who has asked for more security forces and "more sophisticated means" of fighting crime in the city. "We are sitting on a volcano," he told La Repubblica newspaper, which reported today that many of the extra 1,000 police were expected to protect tourist areas in the popular holiday destination, as well as help in the fight against the Camorra and rampant local crime.

The weekend's rush of killings has been a mixture of organised and casual crime. On Friday, a tobacconist killed an armed robber and seriously wounded an accomplice trying to steal his earnings. On Saturday a masked gunman killed Patrizia Marino, a 63-year-old Mafia drug dealer whose husband and two sons were recently murdered. Later that night a 16-year-old killed his girlfriend's former boyfriend. On Monday, a petty criminal was shot dead Naples’s old city, and a passer-by was injured.


01 November 2006

China: Law on financial crimes broadened

CHINA'S top legislature yesterday expanded the scope of an anti-money laundering law to include accepting bribes. The definition of money laundering also has expanded to include corruption, violating financial management regulations and financial fraud. The law is expected to come into effect on January 1.

Previously, the law only identified drug trafficking, organized crime, terrorist crimes and smuggling as money laundering crimes. China's officials and analysts believed the coverage was too narrow. They called for stepping up efforts to combat money laundering, which has risen in recent years along with activities such as embezzlement, drug trafficking and other smuggling. The law demands financial and some non-financial institutions to maintain record on clients and transaction records and to report large and suspect transactions.

The People's Bank of China is the nerve center of the anti-money laundering campaign. Its provincial branch offices are authorized to investigate suspect fund transfers of financial institutions. The law demands financial and certain non-financial institutions to keep identity information of clients and transaction records, report large and suspect transactions. The law offers a legal basis for checking the flow of cash of corrupt officials, said Lang Sheng, an official on criminal law with the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.

The People's Bank of China, or central bank, is the nerve center of the anti-money laundering campaign. Its offices are empowered to monitor and investigate suspect money flows and mete out administrative punishment to employees for allowing the illegal transfer of money. The move is designed to widen the legal net to combat money laundering.

The China Anti-Money Laundering Monitoring and Analysis Center, an office under the central bank set up in 2004, says 683 suspicious money laundering cases had been reported to the police by the end of 2005. They involved 137.8 billion yuan (US$17.2 billion) and over US$1 billion.

The law does not detail the legal power of the center, but allows it to gather "necessary information from departments and institutions under the State Council." The law is also expected to help facilitate China's application to the Financial Action Task Force - a Paris-based inter-governmental body that promotes policies to combat money laundering.

Xinhua 01-11-06