photo: Spiegel intl

One of the things Germany could be proud of was a government that had little corruption.  Ditto for their financial environment and the general business sector.  

But that could be changing soon if the mafia has its way. One of the most dangerous trends of the new millennium is the expansion plan the mafia, and any organized crime syndicate from Italy, is trying to enact.  One of the main targets of the syndicates is Germany. 

In an environment where people, and business owner expect to do things 'on the up and up', as Germany's reputation through the decades could attest, the mafia is trying to reap profits and make inroads by infiltrating a business community unused and unprepared for the onslaught of mafia violence and intimidation. 

The ominous signs of the advance the syndicates had made in Europe and beyond, excluding the US and Canada, where it long ago had made its own network, came when an investigations on murders in Germany exposed a wide network of mafia operations in 2007. 

Another investigation, begun in 2012, revealed how the mafia had devised a plan to divide the state of Rhine-Westphalia into sectors and place henchmen to settle that territory for them. 

The methodology was the true and tried network of businesses and shell companies that steals money and launders it for the mafia. In the 2012 investigation, 17 construction companies were found to be headed by a single mafia cell just for the purpose of laundering money.

But the investigation did not just enable German police forces to break up the ring, it opened their eyes to the extent of the Italian mafia's reach in their own country. 

Increasingly, German authorities have found that the construction sector has been infiltrated by the Sicilian mafia. But that is not where the mafia intends to stop.  Just like in Italy, the mafia intends to infiltrate first the business and financial sector and then ascend to the political posts that will give them the real power. 

Apart from the losses to the state that come from this kind of activity, which runs in the billions annually, the entrenchment of mafia businesses in the construction area are causing a serious decline in the sector itself, which threatens it and ultimately destroys it.  Honest businessmen cannot compete with the shell companies' prices and soon are forced to close shop. In fact the illegal entities use illegal immigrant laborers to do the job, thereby undermining both the construction business as a whole and the employment of the skilled and legal laborers in that area.  What is worse, many say, this problem has been going on for quite a while, with German authorities unable or unwilling to stop it. 

The BundesKriminalAmt, the entity that oversees operations against the mafia, and organized crime, has related that nearly 500 mafia minions and captains live in Germany, as if the place has become a veritable safe house for them.

And the Sicilian mafia is not the only entity eating at the German business environment: the Neapolitan Camorra has taken over the illegal trade of counterfeit items, their specialty, just as they do at home. 

One of the problems highlighted by the investigations, is that the German authorities seem to be too lenient or just unwilling to vigorously stamp out the nascent and established syndicates. And that is because the legal system is not equipped to handle such investigations forcefully, as they are not used to handle this kind of criminal activity or corruption historically and do not have pertinent and specific legislation to combat it, like the RICO act in the United States.

The Calabria Ndrangheta, another mafia syndicate, prefers the food and restaurant sector, after drugs, that is, their principal business. The Ndrangheta has also made significant inroads in two other countries: Colombia and Australia. 

That leads to the question of why there are more than 300 pizzerias in Germany that are fronts for the mafia.  It was in front of one such pizzeria that 6 people were executed in 2007, a crime that opened wide the doors to the mafia's activities for all the German public to see. 

But, incredible as it sounds, the owner of that pizzeria is still operating there in Duisburg, where the massacre happened and has actually enlarged his operation. He now has other pizzerias in different locations, such as Baden-Baden, a resort town and Lake Constance. 

Whey then, are these businesses and their owners allowed to carry on? 

The Social Democrat party (SPD) in Bavaria has been actively trying to halt the advance of the mafia by calling on German and Italian authorities to clamp down on both the business activities and the mafia members' permanence in Germany.  

One of the things that make matters worse, the SPD contends, is the lack of true cooperation and disclosure by the Italian Government in the matter. 

The head of the Social Democratic party in Bavaria is the former head of the Bavarian police union.  He feels, as do many others, that Germany has become a mafia paradise, where mafiosos can come and operate with impunity.  In Bavaria alone there are believed to be 65 active mafia cells.

But the SPD leader also highlights the fact that the police do not have the tools to effectively investigate and prevent the spread of the syndicates' activities.  And that is because Brussels, as the head of the European Union, legislatively, has not enacted any laws that would help with contrasting mafia operations. Such legislation is crucial in the Union, now that people are free to conduct business and transit member states without supervision.

The mafia cannot be allowed to infiltrate the political and juridical structure of the European Union, and yet that is exactly what it is trying to do.  It is seeking to subvert democracy in Europe just as it has effectively done in Italy. Besides the roots they have grown in Germany, the mafia syndicates are targeting Spain, France, Belgium, and Switzerland, among others. 

Money laundering itself is a threat to democracy. In the words of Nicola Gattieri, chief deputy prosecutor in Reggio Calabria, Italy :  "What if these people buying real estate, as well as moving into services, also buy into newspapers or television – as they’ve already started to? It’s obvious that the media affect people’s way of thinking, culture, ideologies. That lets the mafia circulate without ordinary people being aware of it. For example in the field of construction speculation, information bombardment through a local television station or a local newspaper could be a means of manipulation by the mafia.”

Source: LocalDE/the Telegraph/ Euronews/ Spiegel intl: 4.10.14


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