Sunday

22nd Jul 2018

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

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join 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.

Schengen at stake in Austria-Germany talks

German interior minister Horst Seehofer is in Vienna on Thursday - as his plan to reject some asylum seekers was met by an Austrian threat to close its borders too.

Schengen at stake in Austria-Germany talks

German interior minister Horst Seehofer is in Vienna on Thursday - as his plan to reject some asylum seekers was met by an Austrian threat to close its borders too.

Polish PM defends judicial witch-hunt

Poland's judicial purge was meant to punish former communists, its PM has said, in an angry EU debate that saw him ultimately promise to respect EU court rulings.

News in Brief

  1. Libyan PM rejects EU migrant camps idea
  2. Italy's Salvini to sue critical anti-mafia writer
  3. EU countries send aircraft to Sweden to help with wildfires
  4. British ex-commissioner's jobs called into question
  5. May to tell EU to drop Irish border 'backstop' idea
  6. Trump threatens EU over Google fine
  7. Spain withdraws arrest warrant for Catalan separatists
  8. EU readies counter-measures on possible US car tariffs

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us