Saturday

21st Jan 2017

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).

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Caritas EuropaEU States to Join Pope Francis’s Appeal to Care for Migrant Children
  2. UNICEFNumber of Unaccompanied Children Arriving by sea to Italy Doubles in 2016
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers"Nordic Matters" Help Forge Closer Bonds Between the UK and the Nordic Region
  4. Computers, Privacy & Data ProtectionThe age of Intelligent Machines: join the Conference on 25-27 January 2017
  5. Martens CentreNo Better way to Lift Your Monday Blues Than to Gloss Over our Political Cartoons
  6. Dialogue PlatformThe Gulen Movement: An Islamic Response to Terror as a Global Challenge
  7. European Free AllianceMinority Rights and Autonomy are a European Normality
  8. Swedish EnterprisesHow to Create EU Competitiveness Post-Brexit? Seminar on January 24th
  9. European Jewish CongressSchulz to be Awarded the European Medal for Tolerance for his Stand Against Populism
  10. Nordic Council of Ministers"Adventures in Moominland" Kick Off Nordic Matters Festival in London
  11. PLATO15 Fully-Funded PhDs Across Europe on the Post-Crisis Legitimacy of the EU - Apply Now!
  12. Dialogue PlatformInterview: Fethullah Gulen Condemns Assassination of Russian Ambassador to Turkey