The age of the chic Mafia?

Ndragheta crime scene.

 ROME - The appeal of mafia groups to outsiders of traditional Cosa Nostra families is growing, investigators say. The recent work of Italian mafias has newly been described as “less violent, more resilient, hyper technological, and attractive to young people,” reported by the DIA’s half-yearly statement. The antimafia investigative directorate (DIA) divulges that organised criminal groups of interest have become less violent and more inclined to corruption, specifically targeted towards the national and community funds of the PNRR (the National Recovery and Resilience Plan) offices. The latest DIA report describes that, as always, the mafia groups are one step ahead of non criminal organisations.  

 The Web - From the work and reports of anti-mafia investigators emerges a pattern of  "resilience of organized crime and the ability to quickly grasp the technological transformations and economic-financial phenomena on a global scale, exploiting every profit opportunity and realizing a notable speculative expansion, not least thanks to the technological tools connected to the metaverse, to encrypted communications platforms and in general to the web (both the clear internet and the dark web) and other less well-known sectors of the digital world.”

 The increasingly widespread use of encrypted communications, the DIA report emphasises, represents a current and future challenge that technology continually offers and which in the future could be accompanied by the spread of the metaverse on a global scale, a scenario that Europol has already highlighted the potential critical issues. The organisation conveys to the European Union law enforcement agencies recommendations on what could happen and how to adapt and prepare for operational intervention in the new context.

 More corruption and less and less violence - The mafias have transformed. The groups have almost completely lost some of the characteristics that distinguished them in the past, such as outright violence and a strong physical presence. This is why "mafia-type criminal organisations, in their incessant process of adapting to the changing contexts, have implemented relational skills by replacing the use of violence and intimidation, which are increasingly residual, with strategies of silent infiltration and corrupt practices,” the DIA report stresses. The DIA has also “continued to guarantee the constant monitoring of financial flows aimed at identifying and recovering the assets illicitly accumulated by the mafias, even outside the borders.” As described by the agency, the mafias, much like they have done in the past, "prefer to act in illicit areas which arouse less alarm and social disapproval but which generate huge profits slowly released into legal circuits with consequent distorting effects on the regular dynamics of the multiple markets.”

 Business sense and the PNRR- Criminal associations are now more than ever aimed at illicit enrichment of capital. In fact "the mafias increasingly prefer to direct their attention to business-entrepreneurial areas, taking advantage of the availability of huge capital accumulated through traditional illicit activities. These are the  modi operandi where they try both to strengthen associative bonds through the pursuit of profit and the search for consensus by taking advantage of the strong economic suffering that characterizes some areas, and to keep up with the most advanced investment strategies, managing to grasp also the opportunities offered by national and community public funds.” (Recovery Fund and PNRR)

 In the second half of 2022, the DIA confiscated assets for 181.4 million euros compared to 43.4 in the first six months of last year. As for seizures, the figure stands at 31 million euros while in the first six months they were 92.8 million.

 The groups with the most seized capital were the Camorra with 6.4 million euros of assets, 1.2 million attributed to Cosa Nostra, and 0.7 million of the ‘Ndrangheta. The other 22 million euros belonged to other criminal organizations. The confiscations included 177.6 million from the ‘Ndrangheta, 1.1 million from Cosa Nostra, 1.2 million from the Camorra and 1.4 million from other organisations.

 The ever dominant 'Ndrangheta – More details from the DIA report announce:  “Due to its cohesive structure, its 'military' capabilities and its strong roots in the territory, the 'Ndrangheta today confirms itself as the absolute dominator of the criminal scene even outside the traditional territories of influence. The group affects almost all Italian regions -  Lazio, Piedmont and Valle D'Aosta, Liguria, Lombardy, Trentino-Alto Adige, Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany, Marche, Umbria, Abruzzo and Sardinia. It is speculated that their influence also goes beyond the border and involves many European countries, such as Spain, France, the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Slovak Republic, Albania and Romania. The incomprehensibly powerful group also spreads to the Australian and American continents, with possible ties in Canada, USA , Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Australia, Turkey and Ecuador.” 

“The situation of organized crime in Calabria would remain substantially unchanged compared to the previous period of the year... however, the elements emerging from the investigations concluded in the period in question, subsequently, have shown certain aspects of interest which, from a careful analysis, could reveal possible evolutions of the 'Ndrangheta groups that occurred in the various reference contexts.”

 Gangs from the Calabria region in Southern Italy have also extended their influence outside of their region of origin. As reported, “... in addition to significantly infiltrating the main economic and productive sectors, replicate mafia models based on traditional identity values, with 'projections' that always refer to Crime, as the unitary top body, which adopts and imposes the main strategies, settles disputes and establishes the abolition or establishment of new premises.” The most updated investigations have  made it possible to identify 46 premises of Calabrian gangs in Northern Italy, of which 25 are in Lombardy, 16 in Piedmont, 3 in Liguria, 1 in Veneto, 1 in Valle d'Aosta and 1 in Trentino Alto Adige. More recently, in Emilia-Romagna, investigation activities have gradually revealed a considerable incisiveness of the 'Ndrangheta mafia.

 Cosa Nostra appeals to the youth - However, the “Ndrangheta mafia is not the only gang in Italy with persistent influence. The criminal group, Cosa Nostra, manages to have an "attractive capacity" for the youth of today. 

 Sicilian organized crime does not only involve "the direct descendants of the mafia families but, also and above all, a wider recruitment area in order to expand the necessary criminal workforce,” the DIA reports. "In the Sicilian territory there is also the presence of other mafia organisations, both native and foreign, which manage to coexist with Cosa Nostra due to a wide variety of relationships and changing balances.” The report also adds that the now "consolidated 'submergence' strategy dictated by the Sicilian organizations provides for the minimal use of violence in order to avoid social alarm and guarantee, at the same time, a 'serene' economic enrichment through the acquisition of greater and new positions of power.” The increasingly corrupt and decreasingly violent nature of the criminal groups is appealing to the young people of Italy, who may be against the outright violence that the mafias have participated in in the past. The power of Cosa Nostra and its newly hyper technological approach to crime is quite an appeal to youth with no family history inside the mafia. 

 The DIA continues, “there is no shortage of attempts, however, by elderly men of honour, who have recently returned to freedom, to re-accredit themselves within the associations they belong to. In Agrigento, the operations of the Stidda and other para-mafia associations, such as Paracchi and Famigghiedde, also continue to be recorded. In the province of Catania and, more generally in Eastern Sicily, important mafia families, all attributable to Cosa Nostra are still active and refer to its model from organizational, functional and criminal aspects.” 

 The Cosa Nostra gang’s role in drug trafficking lies largely in their “ability to establish commercial relationships and form alliances or cooperation with other mafia groups, such as the 'Ndrangheta and the Camorra, for the purchase of large quantities on a large scale.” The investigations done by the DIA concluded that Cosa Nostra maintained a privileged channel of negotiation especially with the Calabrian gangs for the supply of cocaine on a large scale and largely influential level. 

However, the group has been observed as possibly attempting to regain their international power over teh drug trade. The report details, “it cannot be ruled out that Cosa Nostra will be able, over time, to reactivate the old flows with suppliers from the American continent and regain its historic role as an international player in the field of drug trafficking.” The current and modern criminal orginisations focus their attention on using young people from peripheral and the most impoverished urban areas throughout Italy in order to retain dealing power at a regional level. 

 “The interest of Sicilian mafia groups outside the region is mainly aimed (with reference to the presences in Lazio, Piedmont, Liguria, Lombardy, Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Emilia Romagna, Marche and Tuscany) at infiltrating the economy with the commission of tax fraud and money laundering. Abroad, among the countries most interested in the phenomenon are Spain, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Romania, Malta, Canada, USA.” 

 Attractive Enterprise with the Camorra - The Camorra and its criminal tradition is increasingly devoted to entrepreneurship. The DIA reports, "The provinces of Naples and Caserta remain the territories with the highest and most qualified mafia density. It is here, in fact, that the presence of the large Camorra cartels and more structured associations is recorded which, in addition to having taken over the management of all illicit activities, have gradually evolved into the form of the so-called ‘mafia companies,’ becoming over time, competitive and highly attractive also in the various sectors of the legal economy. It follows, therefore, the growing tendency of the most advanced clans to 'delocalize' economic activities also abroad for the purposes of recycling and reinvestment with the aim of transferring wealth to geographical areas considered safer and more profitable.”

 The report then highlights "a further and insidious threat is constituted by the more subtle and refined strategies adopted by the more structured Camorra organizations and oriented towards the infiltration of the economy and finance also through collusive and corruptive practices. The substantial illicit capital available to these organizations, deriving above all from drug trafficking, as soon as it is reused in the legal economy, alters, sometimes irreversibly, the normal rules of the market and freedom of enterprise, allowing them to acquire dominant or even monopolistic positions, in entire economic sectors.” 

 “There are frequent cases of pervasive interference within the Campania public administration aimed at influencing its regular decision-making processes for the awarding of public contracts, another sector of priority criminal interest,” underlines the report, “thanks to the network of relationships woven between certain exponents of local administrations and businesses, the clans manage to win important public contracts both with direct assignments to companies connected to them and through sub-contracts.” The Camorra group is securing not only seemingly safer and more controlled power, but also a much more deeply pervasive enterprise into legal affairs. 

 Conflict between clans, yet military control - “The fragmentation and dynamism of associative phenomena continue to characterize the entire Apulian mafia scene in which the different constellations of clans and associations, among themselves in fluctuating relationships of conflict and alliances, continue the their upward path towards the acquisition of increasingly complex and structured entrepreneurial forms,” the investigative bureau reports. “The criminal organizations of the region, in fact, although they continue to exercise various methods of military control of the territory, seem to be moving towards the implementation of a targeted and evolved business mafia model.” While domestic violence between mafia clans may have been ubiquitous in the past, historical differences between groups have not, in recent months, gotten in the way of reaching military control and consolidation.

 “The data contained in the Reports on the Administration of Justice, presented on the occasion of the Inauguration of the Judicial Year 2023 at the Courts of Appeal of Bari and Lecce, confirm the growing trend of the Apulian mafias in the traditional distinction between Foggia mafias, the Bari Camorra and sacred united crown,” continues the report. “The analysis and investigation activities of the semester also document how mafia polymorphism does not jeopardize forms of symbiosis and synergistic strategies, functional to the satisfaction of common illicit and highly profitable interests.”  “The mafia infiltration paths in the economic-entrepreneurial circuits originate from the considerable influx of illicit capital deriving from the trafficking, including international ones, of narcotics and from the huge profits resulting from the resurgence of the extortion phenomenon, implemented with prevaricating intimidating strategies by the Apulian criminal organizations against of entrepreneurial and commercial activities, the DIA concludes. “The aforementioned interactions with the historical mafias concern, for example, the clans of the province of Barletta Andria Trani (BAT) which would seem to interact not only with the criminal realities of the Dauno and Bari area, but also with those of Calabrian origin and bell.”

 Albanian Mafia Integration – The international characteristics of Italy’s most notorious groups are strengthening. The reputation and reliability of Albania’s criminal organisations is quickly integrating them into the Italian mafia scene, as the DIA reported.  “The Albanian crime groups over time have integrated with local delinquency, becoming, not only in Italy, one of the most complex and articulated expressions in the crime scene, as partners and providers of criminal services for other groups, with a strong reputation of considerable reliability, especially for drug trafficking. Furthermore, the large availability of money allows the Albanian mafias to have access to sophisticated technological and IT equipment to evade enforcement by the police and judicial authorities, making the investigative effort always difficult and demanding.” The DIA continues to guarantee the constant monitoring of financial flows aimed at identifying and recovering the assets illicitly accumulated by the mafias, even outside the borders of Italy.

 Public procurement and the Milan-Cortina Olympics - According to DIA investigations, “In this ‘phase of economic recovery,’ the threshold of attention is particularly high on the risk of hoarding by criminal organisations, of public funds allocated initially for the health emergency and for building renovations and, in perspective, for the completion of the national recovery and resilience plan (PNRR).” “Depending on the potential critical issues linked to the works already under construction for the Milan-Cortina 2026 Olympics, the judicial investigations, in line with the directions of the local DDA, aim for greater attention regarding these areas,” it is reported. 

 Relating to the presence of the mafia in Lombardy, where all the investigations of the last period are reported, it is explained that “in the region, 25 'Ndrangheta premises appear to be operational.” The objective of the criminal groups is to "infiltrate" public works and "is pursued with refined strategies both to intercept the huge appropriations and to initiate corruption maneuvers" also against professionals-technicians in charge. It is emphasised by the paper that it leads to “extortionary pressure” on the “companies entrusted”  with the works.

 While covertly, mafia groups in Italy have been observed to be growing their influence, in a less obvious, but still detrimental way. The DIA’s next half-yearly report will continue to provide details on the expansion of mafia groups’ and their power in the current Italian political and economic climate.


A DIA member.