Tuesday

15th Jun 2021

Financial crisis is boom time for mafia

  • Grasso: 'They've got liquid cash, they've got ready money ... and not just in Europe' (Photo: Wikipedia)

Struggling banks in the EU and beyond are becoming more willing to launder dirty cash for organised crime.

Italy's anti-mafia prosecutor Pietro Grasso drew attention to one of the lesser known aspects of the crisis at a hearing in the European Parliament's new anti-mafia committee on Tuesday (19 June).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

He told press: "The current economic crisis is making criminal groups even more powerful because they've got liquid cash, they've got ready money ... and not just in Europe, but in other countries where there are fragile economies and they can influence politicians."

His line was echoed by Jean-Francois Gayraud, the chief superintendent of the French police.

"What we've seen in Europe is widespread criminalisation of financial structures in the internal market," Gayraud said.

The phenomenon poses an "existential question" for some countries where it has "transformed" both national politics and financial markets, he added.

The observations are not entirely new.

Antonio Maria Costa, the former director of the UN's anti-organised-crime bureau, the Vienna-based UNODC, wrote in his blog in April last year: "Money from drug traffickers injected into the financial system has saved the banks from the financial crisis."

The Paris-based criminologist, Michel Koutouzis, who carries out investigations for the UN and for EU institutions, noted in May in his new book - Crime, Trafficking and Networks - that organised crime is increasingly investing in sovereign bonds.

The EU parliament committee is planning to flesh out ideas for a new European Commission "action plan" for EU-level counter-measures.

But for Koutouzis the creation of the committee is itself part of the problem.

"The authorities' preferred approach is to observe, to study, to create committees and new institutions. They already know what's happening. But no one wants to take action," he told EUobserver.

He gave as an example his own work for the UN on counterfeit medicines.

"I went to dozens of meetings in Vienna and in Geneva where officials said: 'It's so complicated. We don't know who's responsible' ... But one day after getting off the plane in India, I was standing inside a counterfeit medicine factory with a hidden camera."

Meanwhile, the EU institutions themselves are not immune to corruption.

Belgian police in 2007 arrested two Italian nationals - a European Commission official and an EU parliament assistant - on suspicion of taking bribes from an Italian businessman in return for contracts for EU projects in Albania and India

Giovanni Kessler, the head of the EU's anti-fraud office, Olaf, on Tuesday noted that organised crime accounts for about 40 percent of the "financial damage" wreaked upon the EU budget.

"This trend is increasing," he said.

Investigation

How the Italian mafia found a Dutch home

One of the biggest mafia trials in Europe in recent years is about to end. Members of the Crupi clan are accused of smuggling vast amounts of cocaine from South America to Italy, using the Netherlands as their main hub.

News in Brief

  1. Swiss voters reject climate change measures
  2. Spain: Thousands protest against Catalan leaders' pardon
  3. Belarus opposition leader says 'harsh' sanctions needed
  4. Far-right ex-settler becomes Israeli prime minister
  5. EU top court fast-tracks rule-of-law case to October
  6. Hungary's Fidesz wants to ban LGBTIQ content for under-18s
  7. MEPs join EU citizens on farm-animal cage ban
  8. Council of Europe urges Russia to release Navalny 'immediately'

Feature

Covid-hit homeless find Xmas relief at Brussels food centre

The Kamiano food distribution centre in Brussels is expecting 20 people every half hour on Christmas Day. For many, Kamiano is also more than that - a support system for those made homeless or impoverished.

Top court finds Hungary and Poland broke EU rules

EU tribunal said Hungary's legislation made it "virtually impossible" to make an asylum application. Restricting access to international protection procedure is a violation of EU rules.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. Yemen foreign minister to EU: to stop the war, talk to Iran
  2. Brexit grumbles overshadow UK summit
  3. Former French PM to work for Russian oil firm
  4. Lobbyists push to greenwash EU rules for renewable hydrogen
  5. UN report on pushbacks draws cautious EU response
  6. Biden in Brussels, recovery package underway This WEEK
  7. Nato's biggest enemy hides within
  8. The Dutch politician suing the Dutch state for ethnic-profiling

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us